One of the most daunting challenges for college campuses across the country also is becoming more pervasive.

Although mental health issues affect a growing number of students, faculty and staff, WSU has many outstanding resources available to everyone on campus. While early recognition of potential problems, and intervention, can make a difference, surveys show that students may be unaware of available resources, or reluctant to ask for help.

It’s vital that we as a campus community recognize potential symptoms and reach out to help those in need. In 2015, at least 30 percent of WSU students who responded to a campus-wide survey indicated stress or anxiety had affected their academic performance in the previous year and 36 percent of those students indicated they had felt so depressed it was difficult to function. These data are consistent with national trends and reinforces the need for mental and emotional wellness as a critical consideration for student success.

Recognizing mental illness as a legitimate, treatable condition is important to the health of the community as a whole. In addition, providing accommodation for students with diagnosed mental health conditions is required.

Students who are in crisis have access to on-campus mental health support at any time. Counseling and Psychological Services offers counseling, educational workshops, testing, and a wide range of services, with walk-in hours and a 24-hour crisis line. Health and Wellness Services is also available to help those in need.

We encourage all University employees to consider attending an upcoming Mental Health First Aid course. Offered through Health and Wellness Services, the one-day course teaches those who are not clinically trained to recognize possible symptoms and assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis. For faculty and staff, help is available through the Employee Assistance Program.

If you suspect that a student may be in crisis, you can activate The Student Care Network of campus experts.

WSU students are also working to provide help for those suffering, educate the community on mental health issues, and to remove the stigma associated with mental illness. James Whitbread founded the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on Campus-WSU last spring. He had a tough time after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 50, and he sought out a way to help other students avoid the pain and confusion that comes with mental illness.

“Depression and anxiety are stigmatized, but it’s important especially on a college campus, to get help,” Whitbread says. “We want to help de-stigmatize mental health issues. This is my community and I didn’t want others to go through what I went through with my mother.”

Whitbread cites eye-opening statistics, showing one in five college students will attempt to harm themselves and one in four will suffer from depression. Mental health issues also present an impediment to success in college. In a 2012 survey by NAMI, 64 percent of survey respondents who were no longer attending college said it was because of a mental health-related reason. Pointing students to resources, offering help, and just listening can make the difference between a student dropping out and earning a degree.

“Mental health issues affect so many people,” Whitbread says. “It’s OK to talk about it. It helps. And it will only benefit everyone by being more aware.”

Find NAMI on Campus-WSU on Facebook and look for more activity from the group in the coming months.