Psychologist Sherry Benton, assistant director of counseling services at Kansas State University, has conducted research concluding that students’ mental health problems are more complex and severe than 20 years ago.

“We’re well aware that problems are getting worse, but what hasn’t happened is increasing funding for mental health services,” she said. “Most centers are now overwhelmed. Business has gone up and up, but budgets have remained the same or been cut, and that’s a huge problem.”

One factor, Benton said, is that mental health services are usually not among the categories assessed during colleges’ periodic accreditation reviews. If schools needed good services to remain accredited, they might invest more, she said.

Benton views the rising demand for campus mental health services as a good news-bad news development.

“We do get a lot more students into college who have mental illness but are no problem whatsoever,” she said. “They do need support and use medication; they go on to lead full, productive lives.”

On the downside, she and her colleagues see stress levels among students far higher than a generation ago due to increased workloads and financial strains, often coupled with lack of healthy lifestyles.

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