A high incidence of mental illnesses exists among the college-age population, reveals a recent study conducted by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). The study also found that there is a lack of education and understanding of these illnesses among students and parents. Fifty percent of students rated their mental health as below average or poor, while 25 percent of parents report their students' mental health to be in this range. "There is a mismatch between how parents perceive or assess mental illness and how students do," says Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director for NAMI. "If a student has diabetes, parents know to send their kids low-sugar cookies," he says. "But if a student has a mental illness, parents often don't know how to be helpful."
The study also found that 46 percent would go to a parent if they were experiencing a serious emotional problem while at school. Thirty percent would seek help from a campus counseling center.
"Administrators play an important role in impacting whether a suicidal person goes to the suicide counseling center," Duckworth says. "It all has to do with creating a culture that integrates mental health services into the life of the campus." Mental Illness Awareness Week begins October 3. To learn more about it, visit www.nami.org.