Are College-Aged Adults More Willing To Seek Mental Health Treatment?

By Keri Blakinger 01/18/16

A study shows that the stigma of seeking treatment might be lower for younger generations.


A new study released this month by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America shows that college-aged adults—those in the 18 to 25 age range—are more accepting of mental health treatment than their older counterparts.

The findings are based on an online survey of more than 2,000 adults, including 198 in the 18 to 25 age range. The majority of those in the college age range, roughly 60%, actually view mental health care as “a sign of strength.” However, half say that it’s something they can’t afford and a third say it’s inaccessible.

It seems that at least some experts agree.

“We’re seeing a shift in the stigma of mental health in emerging adults, but until we can improve access to mental health care, it is unlikely that this generation will receive the support and care for a long-term change in mental well-being,” said Dr. Anne Marie Albano, an ADAA member and a professor at Columbia University.

The survey also showed that those in the college age range had higher rates of mental health diagnoses than older demographics and close to two-thirds of the 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed thought they might have had a mental health condition at some point.

Nearly all college-aged survey respondents acknowledged that mental disorders put people at an increased risk of suicide, but only about half believed that anxiety disorders could be a suicide risk factor.

"More than 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable illness such as clinical depression, and often in combination with anxiety or substance use disorders and other treatable mental disorders," said Dr. Mark Pollack, ADAA past president.

The goal of the August 2015 survey was to look at perceptions about mental health and suicide awareness. Although 96% of college-aged survey respondents said they’d take action if someone they loved was contemplating suicide, a majority admitted that there could be factors that would cause them not to act, including a belief that intervention might be futile and a fear that talking about it could make it worse.

“Effectively diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders and depression, especially when they occur at the same time, are critical to intervening and reducing suicide crises," Pollack said.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.