One of the most important studies on college students and mental health came out in late 2012 form the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Unlike past studies (like this one from the Gates Foundation and Public Agenda) that focused on the fact that many students leave college to work, NAMI’s College Students Speak clearly establishes that a) for those who drop out of college, that mental health plays a big factor in that decision, and b) that certain services are deemed more important to student retention and graduation than others.

NAMI’s national survey report on the experiences of college students living with mental health conditions. It’s very much worth a complete read. However, here are some highlights:

  • Of survey respondents, sixty-four percent of those students who have stopped attending college are no longer attending because of mental health related reasons. The primary diagnoses of these students are depression, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Seventy-two percent of responding students experienced a mental health crisis on campus. Yet 34 percent reported that their college did not know about their crisis.

With such a high rate of students with mental health crises not accessing their campus services, the natural question is why aren’t students using these services? NAMI asked that very question. The responses:

  • Fifty-seven percent of responding students did not access accommodations through college disability resource centers, often citing that they were unaware such services and supports existed or did not know how to access them. Forty percent of students did not access mental health services and supports at their school.
  • Thirty-six percent of responding students cited stigma as a barrier to accessing their college’s mental health services and supports, making it the number one reason students don’t access treatment.

Students were also asked what accommodations would best work for students afflicted with mental illnesses.

Given reported rates of mental illness among college students and previous connections of mental health to student withdrawals (56 per public college per year in Virginia, for example), the results aren’t necessarily shocking. However, this study has, more than ever, established both the issue and potential solutions from the view of the student.