Counseling and psychiatric services at Midwest universities are buckling under the increased demand from students — many of whom are entering schools with more serious illnesses than ever seen before.
A decade ago, Thomas Murphy was a college dropout who used alcohol and drugs to deal with undiagnosed depression. Therapy made the difference for him. But he can’t receive it at school. When he re-enrolled at UW-Madison and went to the counseling center, he walked out with no appointment and a list of referrals.
Murphy’s story underscores a national dilemma: a surge in students seeking intensive counseling and psychiatric care, which college mental health centers often lack resources to provide.
Resources and links to crisis lines, campus organizations and off-campus organizations for those who need help.
Five years ago, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had the worst mental health care of any four-year UW institution, by some measures. But the university has worked to improve it.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout had a problem, counseling director John Achter told the student association last year. Twenty-two percent more students were seeking counseling services than ever before, forcing patients to wait up to 26 days to be seen.
Presented with those numbers, the association designated enough money for Achter to hire a new counselor. But some UW counseling centers don’t track even basic information on patients.
Wisconsin is one of 13 states that automatically place 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system. In the past few years, nearly one-third of states have passed laws to keep more young offenders in the juvenile justice system. But not Wisconsin.
In interviews with mental health advocates and county and state officials, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism found that Wisconsin’s public mental health system — once viewed as a national model — has become fragmented and underfunded. And many experts fear that as Gov. Scott Walker moves to close the state’s budget deficit, the mental health system will be weakened even further.
Fifteen years after Schuyler Webster took his own life at age 14, his mother still sees him everywhere.
Experts say Wisconsin’s high suicide rate, relative to those of neighboring states, could be linked to a high rate of binge drinking, easy access to firearms and lack of available mental health care, especially in rural areas.
Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say they defused threats from 125 troubled students, employees and area residents under a little-known program launched two years ago in response to deadly tragedies on college campuses in Virginia and Illinois.
But the program didn’t identify at least three individuals before they caused problems at Wisconsin’s flagship campus, including threats against a campus leader, a bomb threat and a murder near campus.