Nearly two-thirds of college students are worried about a recession in 2023, but that’s not their number one source of stress – their own mental health is.
Four out of five (80%) students declared a mental health crisis on campus – a concerning number even though it reflects a slight improvement over this time last year.
A nationwide survey of more than 1,200 college students by TimelyMD, the leading virtual health and well-being provider in higher education, shows sustained high levels of mental health challenges – and awareness – as students begin the spring semester. Key findings include:
- Seven out of 10 (71%) of students are experiencing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and/or depression.
- More than three-quarters (78%) report the same or higher levels of severity as this time last year.
- Students’ top five stressors are their own mental health (50%), followed by personal finances (39%), academics (37%), mass shootings (35%) and inflation/rising prices (35%).
- 70% think their college or university provides sufficient mental health resources, half of whom have used teletherapy services or a mental health app to support their mental health.
- Three out of four (75%) students who have utilized a teletherapy service or a virtual mental health app to support their mental health say their mental health improved as a result.
“A record 500,000 students used our TimelyCare platform last semester to improve their health and well-being. The survey results and our own data make clear that the majority of college students are experiencing mental health issues of one kind or another,” said Bob Booth, MD, Chief Care Officer at TimelyMD. “As part of our vision to help students be well and thrive, we provide high-quality, immediate access to care – in five minutes or less for on-demand services – so students feel empowered to tap into whatever resources they need to feel seen, supported and successful in school and in life.”
Higher Disparities Among Student Groups
The toll of mental health issues varies by student populations, underscoring the need to provide inclusive care that reflects the backgrounds, identities, and experiences of each student.
- Current levels of stress, anxiety and depression: While 71% of students report they are currently experiencing mental health issues, that number jumps significantly for transgender students (93%), non-binary students (91%) and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander Native students (83%).
- Struggling with basic needs: American Indian (84%), transgender (79%), non-binary (73%) and LGBTQIA+ (68%) students report experiencing higher levels of emotional distress, stress and/or anxiety in the last 12 months due to lack of basic needs than students overall (59%).
Stomping Out the Stigma
One positive trend is that the stigma of talking about mental health is lessening, though some students are still reluctant to seek professional help.
- Parental awareness is growing: Nearly two-thirds (66%) percent of students said their family is aware they are experiencing mental health issues, and a majority (84%) say their family is supportive of them seeking professional mental health support.
- Relying on their peers: Consistent with previous TimelyMD surveys, nearly two-thirds of students (63%) turn to their peers for help first. Half of all students who have used TimelyCare’s Peer Community have not connected to a provider through the platform, illustrating the importance of peer support.
- Turning to professionals: Overall, a little more than half of students (53%) are on the fence about seeking professional mental health support.
- Many students who identify in a marginalized community are much more likely to seek professional support. Transgender (79%), American Indian (70%), non-binary (64%) and LGBTQIA+ (61%) students report seeking professional help to support their mental health in the last 12 months.
- However, less than half of Hispanic/Latino/a/x (44%) and Middle Eastern (44%) students have sought professional help in the last year.
“There are any number of reasons why students may be hesitant to seek professional support. Some may feel overwhelmed about where to start, others may not feel their mental health issues warrant a professional’s help,” said Booth. “That’s why a range of resources – from peer support to psychiatry – must be in place so that the moment a student decides to take that important next step, they have immediate access whenever and wherever they are. I hope colleges and universities that have not yet added resources to fill the gaps in mental health support services resolve to do so in the new year so that no student falls behind or through the cracks.”
TimelyMD is the leading virtual health and well-being solution for higher education. Its mission is to improve the well-being of college students by making virtual medical and mental health care accessible anytime, anywhere. TimelyMD’s virtual care platform, TimelyCare, includes a range of services, including mental health counseling, on-demand emotional support, peer support, medical care, psychiatric care, health coaching, basic needs assistance, faculty and staff guidance, and digital self-care content. Visit timely.md to learn how TimelyMD is inspiring the digital transformation of campus health and the future of student care.