Saturday, April 21, 2007
Across America, college counseling centers are strained by rising numbers of mentally ill students and surging demand for mental health services - a challenging trend as campus officials try to identify potential threats like the unstable Virginia Tech gunman.
And even when serious emotional problems are detected, university officials often feel constrained in how they respond due to an array of laws and policies protecting students' rights and privacy.
"The number of people coming to colleges who've had psychiatric treatment has increased tremendously," said Dr. Gerald Kay, a psychiatry professor at Wright State University and chair of the American Psychiatric Association committee on college mental health.
"Now they're able to come to college - that would not have been the case earlier," Kay said. "You've got a very large number of people who may have some vulnerabilities. It has stressed the availability of resources."
Reasons for the surge include the Americans with Disabilities Act, which gives mentally ill students the right to be at college, and increasingly sophisticated medications which enable them to function better than in the past.
"We have to provide services to students with mental illness - it's not grounds to exclude them from our property," Flynn said. "We cannot discriminate against the mentally ill, nor do we want to."