Ask the Experts

A Sad Truth

As a student, I have seen alcohol abuse and several classmates become depressed. I have not seen any action by the university. Why does our school have a passive policy on these issues?

This question should be posted at nearly every university. Nationwide, over 1,800 students die every year from alcohol-related incidents and over 600,000 are injured as a direct result of excess consumption. Depression and suicide can be the final chapter for others, without counseling. So why is the response administrative torpor to America’s long-standing social problems?

Binge drinking has reportedly increased to over 40% among college students, at one time during their 4 years. Many view this as a rite of passage while attending a university. Studies show there has been a consumption trend from beer to hard liquor, because getting drunk quicker is now the goal. This is directly responsible for the increase in alcohol-related accidents involving students, explains a DUI attorney.

Prevention and intervention strategies have educated students on the dangers of alcohol abuse. However, colleges continue to view student alcohol abuse as an individual problem, rather than a public health crisis. Administrators believe that providing information may not solve the problem, but does absolve them from further responsibility.

Institutions often turn a blind eye to an almost ritualistic part of college life. Many have the determination and courage to take an aggressive stance against student alcoholism. However, they are often thwarted by administration failures, budget constraints, or resistance from fraternities and sororities. Remember, this is an inherited problem, where some students arrive at college already abusing alcohol.

Policy makers at the Department of Education did establish the Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Use and Violence Prevention. However, studies have shown that participating colleges reported only minor improvements in drinking behavior.

In addition to alcohol abuse, colleges are also failing to provide enough support for student mental health issues. Alcoholism is a public issue, while student stress, anxiety and depression do not receive media attention. Sadly, in the past 50 years, the suicide rate for the 15-24 age group has soared over 200%. It is the leading, specific cause of death among college students.

Many campuses have little or no mental health counselling available. Too many students feel uncomfortable attending counseling for a severely stigmatized condition. Admitting and seeking help for a mental health issue is far more complex than recognizing alcohol abuse.

The demand for mental health services on campuses has increased in past decades. Medical treatment has improved dramatically, allowing students with previously untreatable conditions to attend college. As a result, university counseling services have struggled to meet the needs of students.

If things go wrong, don’t go with them… Roger Babson.

John Regan is a former Director of Sales for equity research.