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Sara Miller

ENG 395


Exploratory Essay:

Difficulties in Seeking Mental Health Treatment

Mental health is pressing issue on college campuses. The average college student often

feels overwhelmed by the pressures and expectations arising from academics, social circles, and

health. Fortunately, mental health awareness is increasing, with universities running educational

programs to inform students and provide many centers to assist students with various mental

illnesses. However, despite recent strides, many students suffering from mental illness do not

seek help. For many, mental health has an associated stigma. For others, the cost of treatment

may unaffordable. Even mental illness itself may impede students from seeking help. Although

mental health issues are serious and common on college campuses, students are not seeking help

due to social and academic stigma, affordability and coverage of mental health care, and the

limitations of their own illnesses.

Many college students can recognize and identify mental illness, but still do not seek

treatment. A study at the University of Michigan screened students for mental health disorders

and their rate of seeking help. In the study, among those with anxiety and depression 37-84

percent of students, varying based on the disorder, did not seek treatment. However, among those

who had positive screening for depression, 72 percent recognized they needed help. Throughout
the entire study only 10 percent of students had received therapy or a psychotropic drug

(Michigan News 1). This demonstrated that students, even though the majority can recognize

they have a mental health issue and want help, do not seek treatment. Therefore there are

significant barriers that bar students from seeking help for mental health issues.

One of the most significant reasons people do not seek mental health treatment is because

of associated stigma. Many consider admitting they have a mental illness is exposing a weakness

or do not believe that their illness warrants therapy or drug intervention. Associated stigmas

come from many sources. Family and friends, cultural expectations, and self-stigma can all

contribute to a persons resistance to accepting and seeking mental health treatment (Watson and

Corrigan 1). In fact, Stigma is the number one reason why students do not seek mental health

services (College Students Speak: A Survey on Mental Health 4). Thus, reducing the stigma

surrounding mental health and seeking treatment for mental health is an important. People need

to feel comfortable and safe, including having access to confidential service, to actively seek


Treatment for mental health, such as therapy and psychotropic drugs, can be a financial

burden on students and a significant barrier in seeking treatment. Without insurance, this cost

may be too much for college students. Around 20 of college students are uninsured with only 57

percent of colleges providing insurance plans, varying in coverage (Redden 1). This puts a large

number of students paying for mental health treatment out of pocket. Considering that mental

health care can be long term and expensive, encompassing years of therapy sessions and

medication, many students may choose not to seek treatment to avoid the large cost.

Finally, a student, due to their mental health disorder, may have difficulty in achieving

the steps of seeking treatment. Making phone calls, attending appointments, keeping track of
medication, and making active changes pose significant difficulty to those who are suffering

from various mental health disorders. According to a report by National Center for Health

statistics, 90 percent of people with depression find it difficult to participate in daily life such as

work, school, activities, and social settings (Park 1). At the University of Maryland College Park,

case managers manage a students needs from making their appointments, walking with them to

appointments, and assisting with academic issues for those who have mental health conditions.

These steps, though simple for the average person, pose significant difficulty for those with

disorders like anxiety or depression. The limitations and complications arising from their own

disorder may prevent students from seeking care

Though college students knowledge of mental health is generally higher than in the

whole population, many students do not seek treatment for various reasons, despite wanting help.

Barriers to treatment include mental health stigma, affordability, and the difficulties imposed by

their own disorders. Universities must understand these students special needs and

considerations. While education has improved the quality of mental health care, the focus must

now be on improving access and feasibility of mental health care. Services and treatment must

adapt to these specific needs and assist students in seeking care in an effort to increase treatment

rates and ensure a healthier campus.