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More students report mental-illness concerns

BY HOLLY HINES | JANUARY 27, 2010 7:30 AM

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UI senior Katie Ovrom said she wants to do everything. But sometimes it stresses her out.

“I think people are trying to do all of it, and that’s not really conceivable,” said the double major in Spanish and international studies. This may be why some students suffer anxiety, she said.

High-school and college students today are five to eight times more likely to suffer from a mental illness than during the Great Depression era, according an unreleased study conducted by Jean Twenge, a psychology associate professor at San Diego State.

Twenge and her colleagues gathered the results by analyzing mental-health surveys completed by more than 63,000 college students from 1938 through 2007, said Brittany Gentile of the University of Georgia, who helped with the study.

Staff members at the University Counseling Service have seen a 10 percent increase in UI students seeking counseling since the fall of 2008, said Sam Cochran, the service’s director.

And in the 2009 National Survey of Student Counseling Directors, roughly 93 percent of directors from roughly 300 schools reported a steady increase in students seeking counseling at their respective universities.

Gentile said her study results showed an increase in many disorders including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

The results suggest students today are overly focused on material goals, wealth, and possessions, she said. Students should focus on building relationships, finding meaning, and striving for attainable goals, she said.

Cochran said the increase in students reporting concerns doesn’t necessarily mean more of them are mentally ill.

“People are less likely to deny they have a problem,” he said, and psychological measurement tools during the Great Depression era were less precise than those used today.

But Gentile said this factor alone didn’t account for the trend.

Though Cochran and Gentile agree the increase doesn’t directly correlate with recent economic troubles, several students said financial worries have increased their stress levels.

UI senior Madison Bell said her peers have recently been talking about their monetary concerns more, and some have had to pick up second jobs.

Bell — who works as a waitress at Pagliai’s, 302 E. Bloomington St., to help pay for school — said she sometimes worries when people don’t come into the restaurant because it affects her income. She noted it’s worries like this can increase anxiety for students.

“School’s enough, I guess,” she said.

Cochran said staff at University Counseling have seen students concerned about funding, students’ employment needs, and worries about finding jobs after graduation.

“It is certainly stressful, both in terms of funding a student’s education and in terms of obtaining employment after graduation,” he said.


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