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UNC System mental health experts assessed university services. Here's what they found.
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UNC System mental health experts assessed university services. Here's what they found.

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CHAPEL HILL — Students in the UNC System are showing a “significant increase in the incidence of mental health challenges,” which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A team of mental health professionals and university leaders assessed universities’ mental health services and made several recommendations to improve campus resources. Their report “Healthy Minds, Strong Universities: Charting a Course to More Sustainable Student Mental Health Care” was presented to the Board of Governors in May.

The report explained the escalating demand for student mental health services, strained capacity at college counseling centers and higher stakes as student mental illness is one of the most cited reasons that students drop out of college.

Nationwide, about 20% to 30% of incoming college students come to campus with a mental health diagnosis, according to the report.

Students are increasingly reporting suicidal ideation, with 10% to 15% of college students saying they have had serious thoughts of suicide within the 12 months prior to the report being published, the report’s authors wrote.

And there’s been a rise in traumatic life events that students are coping with, including the death of family members, abuse and sexual assault.

The team found that campuses provide a variety of clinical and outreach services, but the “growth in the breadth and depth of student mental health needs are increasingly beyond the scope of what current mental health staff, funding streams and operational structures can provide.”

Mental health services are primarily funded through student fees, but that doesn’t cover the cost. And relying on money from the General Fund makes mental health centers financially fragile, according to the report.

The report’s authors write that UNC System President Peter Hans and UNC System Office staff plan to work with the UNC System Board of Governors, campus leadership, students and others to address these issues “in the months and years to come.”

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