Caring About a “Crisis of Mental Health” in College Students

A recent article in Psychology Today spotlights the state of many on our college campuses: college students are overwhelmed, anxious, and suffering from a wide spectrum of mental health issues. The statistics it cites are shocking:

“It is neither an exaggeration nor is it alarmist to claim that there is a mental health crisis today facing America’s college students. Evidence suggests that this group has greater levels of stress and psychopathology than any time in the nation’s history…

95% of college counseling center directors surveyed said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their center or on campus. Seventy percent of directors believe that the number of students with severe psychological problems on their campus has increased in the past year…

Rates of anxiety and depression have sky-rocketed in the last few decades. A 2013 survey of college students found that 57% of women and 40% of men reported experiencing episodes of “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year, and 33% of women and 27% of men reported a period in the last year of feeling so depressed it was difficult to function. Studies suggest that between a quarter and a third of students meet criteria for an anxiety or depressive illness during their college experience.”

Sleep deprivation and poor sleep patterns of the average college student is being linked to mental health problems in other domains, eating disorders are affecting more than 20% of students, alcohol abuse is rampant, and the “prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and high risk sexual behaviors are a significant cause for concern.” It is clear that there is a complexity of issues, and at least one thing mentioned above surely affects most students.

I’ve written about this issue before, but as I read this article it once again reminded me of the need for our church to be a welcome place for those who are hurting and broken – and in particular to college students, since they surround us in our city. Students often look to medication as their answer – and they’ll ask for it each time they go to the Student Health Center – but as Christians, we know that medication is not the only answer. We’ve all heard it said before that the church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for the saints. Jesus cares for the sick (Luke 5) – he’s the Great Physician and even when medication is necessary, he alone provides ultimate healing and hope.

God has brought many, many college students to The Crossing – many of them hurting. Some are looking for answers, some are looking for hope, and some don’t really know what they are looking for, but they don’t know where else to turn. Join me in praying that they would find here a community that would care for them well, drawing them into families and friendships that point them to Christ and his word. Let’s be welcoming to the college student we find next to us during the service, and let’s be people who reach out, rather than only focusing inward. After all, we know the Great Healer, who longs to know and heal them.

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