Survey shows dangerous alcohol-fueled behavior higher at SRJC than nation
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Negative feelings and dangerous or regrettable behaviors caused by drinking tend to be higher among SRJC students than among the nation as a whole, a national survey said. SRJC students are also less likely to have health insurance.
About a dozen students gathered in the Bertolini Center for Student Leadership as SRJC staff members shared results from a mental health survey conducted last spring and informed students of the on-campus mental health resources available to them in a lecture March 11. Susan Quinn, director of Student Health Services, and Catherine Williams, a faculty member for the Disability Resources Department, gave the presentation as part of SRJC’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Statistics compiled from the National College Health Association Survey showed how SRJC students compared to other California community colleges and to college students as a whole in the United States in categories such as general health, alcohol and drug use and mental health.
The survey included 1,090 respondents from SRJC alone, with 11,710 respondents from 14 different community colleges and 95,712 respondents from 139 colleges nationwide (most of them four-year universities). Responses were voluntary and anonymous and Student Health Services staff administered the surveys at both campuses during morning and evening classes.
While SRJC students reported a lower rate of feeling overwhelmed than the rest of the nation (77.3 percent versus 85.2 percent), they had higher rates of feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or anger, feeling hopeless and feeling so depressed it was difficult to function.
SRJC students also experienced a higher incidence of negative consequences from drinking than the nation on average: rates of regretted behavior, unprotected sex, physical injury to self and others, conflict with police and serious consideration of suicide were all higher among SRJC students than the national rates.
Only one category, “forgetting where you were or what you did,” elicited a higher positive response rate in the nation as a whole than in SRJC’s population.
One of the most concerning statistics to staff was that 22 percent of SRJC students have no health insurance at all, compared to 8.6 percent of students nationwide. Having no insurance deters students from getting the health care, mental or otherwise, they genuinely need.
“Things just go untreated,” Quinn said.
However, students can get treatment without insurance. The mandatory $17 health services fee students pay every semester covers many on-campus resources.
Nurse practitioners see approximately 10,000 students every year, while the mental health center sees about 1,000. Centers on both campuses provide drop-in services, referrals to doctors or psychiatrists and various kinds of therapy.
Williams said the Disability Resources department is another important mental health resource. Twenty percent of the students aided by the department have a psychiatric disability, making it the fastest growing disability in the DRD.
With advances in awareness, many conditions are now better recognized. “Attention deficit is a popular diagnosis,” Williams said. “Bipolar is popular. PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] is popular.” Recognition allows for treatment, which allows individuals with these disorders to attend and succeed at college.
SRJC recently allied itself with the Sonoma County Drug Abuse Alternative Center. Students 25 and younger can get help at the Santa Rosa campus; older students are referred to off-campus locations for services.
While the school offers many services, students may not be taking advantage of them as much as they could.
“I don’t know how many people know about the services, but information is readily available and the services themselves are pretty extensive,” said Nathan Randall, 20, an SRJC psychology major.
Another issue, despite a huge selection of on- and off-campus community activities, is a sense of isolation. “Isolation is a big thing we don’t know what to do with,” Quinn said.
Randall agreed. “Our schools are such a place of competition that we tend not to reach out to others for help.”