The latest National Alliance on Mental Illness survey does not present accurate conclusions
The day before Halloween, the National Alliance on Mental Illness presented the scary results of its survey on the mental well-being of students. “College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health” gauged the statistics of typical psychological phenomena on college campuses, such as disorders and student dropouts. Ultimately, the report indicated that college campuses are not doing enough to accommodate the mental state of their many students. The survey itself, however, failed to engage an accurate student demographic.
For all people aged 15-24, suicide is the third leading cause of death in this country. Although psychological trauma is common among young people generally, the alliance — a national lobby on behalf of the mentally ill — focuses in this survey solely on college students. In 2011, it surveyed nearly 800 students who were then enrolled in college or had been during the prior half decade.
The numbers illustrate the prevalence of mental health problems among university students. Twenty-seven percent of respondents had been diagnosed with depression and nearly a quarter with bipolar disorder. Forty percent of the respondents said their schools had facilities that were “not supportive” or “not very supportive” about mental health issues. The survey concluded that colleges are not doing enough to ameliorate the concerns of their students; conveniently, one of the ways the alliance suggests this can be improved is by opening an alliance chapter on campus.
The results are more complicated, though. About half of the total respondents said they had not told professionals at their college of their mental health problems, and 38 percent of students who identified themselves as members of LGBTQ communities had also not told professionals. Often, individuals may not want to seek help and at that point there is little for a school to do. There is no one to blame in such situations, as colleges can only do so much outreach before becoming coercive, and students cannot be faulted for keeping their issues personal due to fear or other trepidation.
The group that can be faulted, in this case, is the alliance. The pool from which this survey drew was adequately skewed to make any well-grounded conclusion impossible. For instance, 82 percent of respondents were Caucasian and an equal 82 percent of respondents were women. Though the alliance suggests this pool — specifically with regard to women, who are more likely to self-report depression or other unwellness — reflects trends consistent elsewhere in the literature, it does not accurately portray the demographic make-up of a campus. For instance, the University has only 55 percent women and 72 percent Caucasian students. Therefore, due to its omission of a significant portion of the college-age demographic, this survey by the alliance is more harmful than good.