Since 1999, the suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30 percent — with rates in Minnesota increasing by 40 percent. This increase means there are 15 suicides for every 100,000 people in Minnesota. While several factors contribute to the increase, mental health is the leading contributor.
The University of Minnesota provides resources to students that address this rising epidemic through opportunities to help, maintain and regulate their mental health. Within the last two years, Boynton Health has expanded its mental health clinic and resources. The University put in $260,000 to remodel parts of Boynton’s first floor — providing more space for patients and staff. Boynton also recently hired four more therapists.
For students who are apprehensive toward the idea of going into a doctor’s office to get help, the University has an online assessment available. After the consultation, students choose whether individual or group counseling works best.
There are other small things the University does that help students who may only need a temporary solution to help them back on track. In Magrath Library on the St. Paul campus, you can rent out Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps to curb symptoms of SAD while you study. Pet Away Worry and Stress (PAWS) is an option too, of course. PAWS brings in registered therapy animals to East Bank, West Bank and the St. Paul campus every week.
While the University has done a lot for its students in regards to mental health, it's important to recognize there is always room for improvement. At the University of Wisconsin - Madison, their mental health services are completely free to students and are supported with funding from tuition and fees. While most services at the University are free for students, Boynton requires students to have active health insurance. Whatever insurance does not cover at Boynton, students may have to pay out-of-pocket.
The University should follow Madison's lead and explore the idea of providing more general-health and mental-health services — free of charge — to tuition-paying students. Some students hitting financial barriers may not be able to receive the life-saving care they may need.
Students should take advantage of opportunities the University provides — while we still have them available to us. After graduation, access to free- or low-cost health care may decrease. It's better to reach out now while we are young to learn how to manage mental health.