Interventions Used by Colleges to Respond to Student Mental Health Crisis
Psychiatric Services, Forthcoming
21 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2011 Last revised: 6 Sep 2011
Date Written: August 1, 2011
Objective: This study examined interventions used by colleges to respond to students who appear to be experiencing mental health crises.
Methods: All public and private colleges in Virginia (N = 64) were surveyed regarding academic policies governing responses to apparent mental health crises experienced by students and the frequency with which these policies are invoked.
Results: The procedures most often used by 4-year colleges were parental notification (6 and 25 per 10,000 students at public and private colleges, respectively, leveraged medical withdrawal (29 and 25 per 10,000 students at public and private colleges, respectively), treatment linked to disciplinary sanction (302 and 1,704 per 10,000 students at public and private colleges, respectively), and monitoring by campus threat assessment teams (15 and 51 per 10,000 students at public and private colleges, respectively). Procedures for involuntary hospitalization and involuntary medical withdrawal were rarely invoked. Two-year community colleges, which lack on-campus counseling centers, were much less likely than four-year colleges to use any of these procedures.
Conclusions: Most 4-year colleges in Virginia, both public and private, occasionally invoke a variety of protective interventions to respond to apparent mental health crises experienced by their students, but the number of students annually affected by these policies is generally small. The main value of procedures for mandated or leveraged treatment in college may be to motivate students with mental illness to seek treatment voluntarily. Aside from sporadic use of threat assessment teams in extreme instances, community colleges lack the capacity to undertake any of these interventions.
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