Of the pandemic side effects, one positive might be an increased knowledge and awareness of the mental health issues that so many of us face. On our campuses, the mental health needs of Community College students are also growing, with more students seeking treatment and more students experiencing severe illness.
Recent research from the American Psychological Association has shown an increase in college students seeking mental health resources and that as many as 44% of students that seek help have a severe issue. The National Alliance of Mental Illness surveyed Community Colleges specifically who sought help and found that depression and bipolar disorder constituted more than 50% of the respondents' diagnoses. These students are at a greater risk of dropping out, becoming socially isolated, and even becoming victims of suicide or homicide.
Community Colleges in Iowa and beyond are responding to this crisis. The American College Counseling Association (ACCA) found that 73% of Community Colleges provide mental health counseling services on campus, showing steady growth in recent years. Many colleges support students in other ways including referrals to community services and contracts with off-campus providers.
Part of what has allowed the expansion of services is the rapid adoption of teletherapy and telehealth during the pandemic. While most therapists only saw patients in person prior to the pandemic, the landscape looks very different now. Many who adopted these technologies during the pandemic have found them to be effective and are keeping virtual options available for patients. Insurance and other regulations have changed to accommodate this trend and remove barriers. This may help colleges expand access and ensure all students can connect with therapists and psychologists when they need them.
While it’s important to make mental health accessible to all students, it’s particularly important to increase access and reduce barriers particularly for marginalized students. Studies have shown that students of color and LGBTQ students can be especially vulnerable to mental health challenges, while at the same time less likely to seek or have access to care. First generation students are also a population requiring special attention in this area. These students are less likely to have social support when they run into challenges and struggle to find a sense of belonging.
- Early intervention: In addition to expanding access to care and treatment, early intervention strategies have proven effective for many students. This can include training all staff and faculty to recognize warning signs and be able to talk to students and make referrals.
- Peer counseling: With the lack of available mental health professionals available, finding staff can be challenging. Additionally, finding staff who identities align with students is key and can be very difficult. Training students as peer counselors is one way to address workforce issues and find a more diverse pool of counselors who can identify with students’ experiences.
- Changing campus culture: Ultimately, mental health cannot be solved through services after a problem surfaces. That’s why many campuses are looking at ways of cultivating wellbeing, belonging, and healthy relationships across campus as a prevention and support strategy.
Services Offered at our Colleges
All of our Colleges are here to support students with their mental health. Services vary from campus to campus, but we all take the well-being of students' mental health seriously. Check out the specific services at each College.
Northeast Iowa Community College
Counselors are available for one-on-one services & a student crisis fund is available for those in need of immediate assistance.
North Iowa Area Community College
NIACC provides wellness support to all students including the Student Assistance Program (SAP) that helps with school-life balance, family or relationship issues, emotional issues, & alcohol and drug-related issues, and online screening that "offers free online screenings for eating disorders, alcohol issues, anxiety disorders, and depression...the screening is provided so that you may find out, in just a few minutes, whether or not professional consultation would be helpful to you."
Iowa Lakes provides two mental health resources. One is TalkCampus which allows students from around the world to connect and receive support from each other 24/7. The other is Synergy eTherapy: a free teletherapy resource where students can receive traditional mental health counseling like one-on-one counseling and phone & video sessions.
Northwest Iowa Community College
A counseling coordinator is available for all of students' needs and directs students toward the resources and help they need. Local agencies like Seasons Center for Community Mental Health and Plains Area Mental Health are also available.
Iowa Central Community College
Iowa Central's student counselor "provides a supportive environment, short-term advocacy, crisis intervention, and referral services to all students so they may successfully experience educational opportunities in the classroom and outside of the classroom." An online resource called Ulifeline provides online screening that allows students to take a mental health test that identifies common mental health issues.
Iowa Valley Community College District
The Student Assistance Program is a free campus counseling service available by appointment or drop-in. Students who need extra counseling sessions can receive referrals.
A mental health counselor on campus is available to "help you to clarify thoughts and feelings, develop problem-solving skills and coping strategies, and to construct a plan for the future." Hawkeye's counselor Deanna Shafer talks about the 10 things you should know about Hawkeye's mental health services in this video.
Eastern Iowa Community Colleges
Counseling services at EICC include the Student Assistance Program (SAP) that offers counseling to help students to make changes in their life so they are prepared for any challenges life throws out.
Kirkwood offers individual, relational, and outreach services geared to fit a variety of circumstances. Their page provides in-depth information about what to expect from a counseling session as well as some self-help tips.
Des Moines Iowa Area Community College
DMACC has many services to offer. Counselors are available at every campus for students to utilize. The counseling website also offers online resources for health and wellness, suicide prevention, and life balance.
Western Iowa Tech Community College
WITCC has two counselors available for students to utilize. If students need additional support, counseling services in Cherokee and Denison are available for long-term help.
Iowa Western Community College
Mental health support is "offered to students who may be struggling with emotional, social, family, relationship, or substance abuse concerns." A counselor is available on campus for in-person help.
Southwestern Community College
Students at SWCC can use the Student Assistance Program (SAP) that "provides telephone consults and virtual counseling. Phone lines are answered by masters-level clinicians and open 24/7 every day of the week."
Indian Hills Community College
Indian Hills provides services through Counseling and Prevention Resource Center (CPRC): "Life can be complicated and stressful at times and unfortunately these life stressors don’t wait while pursuing an education. If there is anything that seems to be interfering with your progress and success in personal, academic, or athletic goals, a counselor may be able to help." They provide crisis services, counseling services, consultation services, and coordination services explained further here.
Southeastern Community College
SCC has partnered with The Virtual Care Group to "offer behavioral visits, life coaching, and on-demand crisis counseling online or by phone."