Gaps persist in campus mental health services


A decade ago, Thomas Murphy was a college dropout who used alcohol and drugs to deal with undiagnosed depression.

Now he’s back at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he co-leads a chapter of Active Minds, a national, student-run group promoting open conversations about mental illness.

Therapy made the difference for Murphy. 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.

“They couldn’t help me because of my extensive history,” Murphy said. “So I go out and pay on my own for the services I need.”

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.

The problem has become even more urgent in the wake of mass shootings by troubled students at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois universities.

In Wisconsin, understaffed counseling centers are prioritizing services for those with urgent needs, expanding group therapy options to reach more students, and referring patients off campus for long-term treatment.

And students like Murphy are forming campus organizations to support peers and fight the stigma of mental illness.

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