Chicago, Illinois (PressExposure) February 14, 2011 -- According to a recent national survey, "The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010," the emotional health of college freshmen declined significantly during recent years, with the number of students saying that their "emotional health was above average," falling from 64 to 52 percent. This is the same downtrend seen by Kimberly Dennis, M.D., medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, in the women she treats on campus.
"People have spent significantly less time interacting face to face with other human beings with technology today. This has had a deep impact on peoples' hearts and souls," said Kimberly Dennis, M.D. "We're over-connected electronically and under-connected to the people around us."
Because of this, colleges today have more responsibility to step up to ensure the well-being of their students and Dr. Dennis calls on them to help stop this severe decline in mental health with five steps that could make a difference for students on their campuses.
Step one: Provide education on campus. "Students need to know the effects of their weakened emotional state because as mental health declines, dangerous behaviors can increase," said Dr. Dennis.
Step two: Increase the support for accessible on-campus counseling centers.
Step three: Conduct aggressive awareness campaigns.
Step four: "Staff on-campus counseling centers with experts who can diagnose early - or work directly with outside experts who can provide immediate and individualized help," said Dr. Dennis.
Step five: "Understand the fragile state of many students, especially college freshmen, so that proactive measures and support are planned," said Dr. Dennis.
"Many times college-aged women cope with their new surroundings through using alcohol, other substances, engaging in eating disorders, and getting depressed and/or suicidal," said Dr. Dennis. "And we've seen an increasing number of college students with higher and higher levels of acuity, or the severity of their illness, before they get to residential care."
Colleges also need to be held responsible for the behaviors that take place on and around their campuses and should better uphold boundaries around underage drinking. They can also help by establishing sober dorms on campus, as well as providing support groups on campus that practice the 12-step methodology such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and Eating Disorders Anonymous.
Access to information and help can be key in the battle against depression, eating disorders and alcoholism. Lifelong recovery is possible, but only if all of those in the mental health and education fields work together to share resources and information to better help those in need.