College campuses are experiencing a mental health crisis; how are Arizona schools responding?

The three public university presidents outlined what they're doing to address the mental health crisis students are facing in Arizona.
Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 5:02 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Mental health on college campuses is reaching crisis levels. Rates of depression and anxiety are going on, and suicide is now the second most common cause of death among students. Arizona’s Family sat down with the leaders of the state’s public universities who say it’s a big issue they’re working to address.

College can be a trying time for students. Many are away from home for the first time without support systems in place. There are the stresses of increased classwork, making new friends, and even making ends meet.

Experts say it’s no wonder a majority of college students report their emotional health is worse now than it was in 2019.

“They’re trying to keep up but it’s not working well,” Matthew McCord, an ASU freshman said.

“All three of the universities need to expand every sector of health and wellness,” University of Arizona President Robert Robbins said. Meanwhile, Arizona State President Michael Crow says they’ve expanded counseling services, while Northern Arizona University President told Arizona’s Family that “this is crucial work that we must do.”

ASU, the state’s largest university, has a chatbot called “Sunny” for students to interact with at any time. “We’ve built a multi-language chatbot as a first screen service for anyone who feels any emotional issues they’d like to have addressed,” Crow explained. It was news to the freshman, Arizona’s Family spoke with. “I haven’t heard of that,” Karlee Chynoweth said. “We have therapy places on campus but I feel that we don’t talk about it as much and they didn’t give us a certain direction. So a lot of kids I’ve talked to are struggling a little bit,” McCord said.

U of A officials said they’re working to get more resources. “We’re expanding the number of health care providers, that are focused in on mental health,” Robbins explained. He also reminded us of the shortage of mental health counselors and therapists nationally. He said the university is trying to address that by starting a new specialty, nurse practitioner with a focus on mental health.

Meanwhile, at NAU, Cruz Rivera said is working to cut the time it takes for a student to connect with a counselor. “Through that effort, we were able to engage with a partner in the private sector that provides 24/7 access to mental health counselors to students via telehealth,” he said. The next part is following up with students and professionals. “Trying to get feedback both from our students as well as our mental health counselors on staff as well as to who we refer,” said Cruz Rivera.

To put this in perspective, according to the National Association of Mental Illness, 64% of college students who dropped out did so because of mental health. A majority of them had not gone for help while on campus. It’s a concerning trend, which researchers said could account for why college enrollment has been down nationally.

If you or someone you know has a mental illness, there are ways to get help. Call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or Use Lifeline Chat on the web