Around one-quarter of university students are suffering depression or psychological distress but only a fraction of them are seeing student counselors, according to new research.
A survey of nearly 800 university students by Victoria University's Professor Terence McCann showed 21 per cent were psychologically distressed and 27 per cent reported depression-like symptoms.
Over 70 per cent of students with a problem had sought professional help, most often from a GP or counselor; however, only 10 per cent reported seeking help from a university counselor.
The study, completed with Dr Nicola Reavley and Professor Anthony Jorm from the University of Melbourne, also found Australian-born students were three times less likely to see a student counselor than those born overseas.
Professor McCann said it was crucial to find out what barriers were stopping more students using student counseling services.
"Young people are the most likely of any age group to delay or fail to seek help," the report said. "With most mental disorders having their first onset in those under 24 years of age, improving early access to appropriate services is crucial."
Researchers said there was evidence that mental health problems in tertiary education students had increased in recent years and universities needed to be part of an adequate response to that.
They said there was also a need to look at peer-to-peer education as students typically spoke to a close friend or family when facing mental health problems.
The study Actions taken to deal with mental health problems in Australian higher education students was published in the Early Intervention in Psychiatry academic journal.
Reference: Reavley, N. J., McCann, T. V., & Jorm, A. F. Actions taken to deal with mental health problems in Australian higher education students. Early Intervention in Psychiatry.
Available for interview:
Professor Terence McCann, researcher
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria University
(03) 8395 8141; email@example.com
Michael Quin, communications officer (research)
Marketing & Communications Department, Victoria University
(03) 9919 9491; 0431 815 409; firstname.lastname@example.org