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Meeting the Needs of College Students
By Miriam Arond
Experts have long been concerned about the rise in depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, substance use disorder, and other mental health challenges among college students. The physical, social, economic, and educational consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated these problems. A report published in August 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that about one-quarter of individuals 18-24 years old surveyed had “seriously considered suicide” in the last 30 days. A study released from the Student Experience in the Research University, a higher education research collaborative between the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Minnesota, and other institutions, found that students are screening positive for depression and anxiety at higher rates than in previous years.
To ensure that access to mental health care does not pose a barrier, Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), the largest provider of licensed outpatient community mental health services in Westchester, has partnered with the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health to launch an Emotional Wellness College Initiative. This initiative will ensure that college students in Westchester have access to high quality, evidence based mental health treatment during the COVID crisis, regardless of insurance or ability to pay.
“College students are struggling with loneliness and fear and uncertainty about the future. School, family, and social routines have changed as a result of the pandemic,” says Suzanne DeLasho, director of WJCS Behavioral Health Clinics. “Many are learning remotely and struggling. They are separated from their peers, their professors, and the college experiences that are vital in shaping their identity. It’s important to give them the support they need at this critical time.”
WJCS’s specialized mental health services include treatment for trauma, developmental disabilities, grief and bereavement, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Support for college students or any individuals age 16-30 in Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland Counties who are experiencing mental health symptoms that include hearing or seeing things that others do not, withdrawing from friends, or becoming fearful or suspicious of others is available through WJCS’s OnTrackNY program. A Coordinated Specialty Care Team helps clients overcome challenges and achieve their academic, social, and vocational goals. Funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health and a Healthy Living SAMSHA grant, OnTrackNY services are provided, regardless of ability to pay, to individuals who meet established criteria. WJCS mental health services are provided in person or via telehealth.
At a time when mental health crises are on the rise, it’s essential that we are all aware of risks and symptoms of mental illness and how to help connect someone who is suffering to appropriate care. As a leader in Mental Health First Aid, WJCS is offering trainings in this nationally recognized, evidence-based certification course to educators, coaches, government agencies, first responders, youth-serving agencies, parents, mentors, and volunteers. Courses in Youth Mental Health First Aid (geared to supporting children and adolescents ages 6-18) and Adult Mental Health First Aid teach how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.
Miriam Arond is Director of Communications for WJCS. To obtain counseling services through the WJCS College Wellness initiative, contact Leslie Perez at (914) 423-4433, ext. 3. To schedule a Mental Health First Aid Training, contact Paula Santa-Donato firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about ONTrackNY, contact Valerie Rosen at email@example.com or (914) 523-0671.