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Updated 11:00 AM March 8, 2004



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More programs needed to aid students with mental illnesses

With improved treatment and enhanced legal rights of individuals with disabilities, colleges and universities are likely to enroll increasing numbers of students with mental illnesses, U-M researchers say.

Across the nation, higher education institutions need to offer more programs of assistance and support to students with mental illnesses, says Carol Mowbray, a School of Social Work (SSW) professor.
Depression on College Campuses Conference
• March 9-10
• Rackham Building and Michigan League
• For more information, visit or call (734) 763-7495
or (734) 647-2644.

"Not having adequate services and supports may create more burdens on students with mental illnesses if they have to encounter challenges on their own, or in facing stigma or discrimination and decreasing their likelihood of success," says Mowbray, who co-authored "Supported Education Programming for Adults with Psychiatric Disabilities: Results from a National Survey."

The other study authors are Mark Holter, assistant professor in SSW, and Deborah Megivern, a social work assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis. The authors studied 103 college programs nationwide and categorized them according to the services they provide. The national survey research was published in a recent issue of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.

In previous years, people who experienced psychiatric disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia usually were disenfranchised from higher education, Mowbray says.

Techniques and technology for early identification and treatment of mental illness have been improving. In the near future, there are likely to be significant advances in knowing how to help students with serious mental illness, and as a result, even larger numbers will be able to pursue college educations, Mowbray says.

"There seems to be little possibility of educational institutions being able to avoid the necessity of addressing the needs of these students," she says.

Colleges and universities should coordinate their efforts with local mental health programs to improve services, Mowbray says.

To date, there is no single best model for collaboration between academic institutions and mental health programs, she says. There is emerging knowledge, however, of how to better address and serve the needs of students with psychiatric disabilities, and that knowledge can be used to build successful models that are responsive to the specific needs of local schools and communities, she says.

As high school seniors begin to narrow their choices for college, those requiring mental health services should investigate the quality and accessibility of counseling programs available at or in proximity to the college they plan to attend, Mowbray says.

Mowbray will lead a panel discussion entitled "How Can Students Help Students?" at the Depression on College Campuses conference at 2:50 p.m. March 9 in the Michigan League. For more information about the March 9-10 conference, visit

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