LOS ANGELES, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. college campuses have seen more cases of severe mental illness among students than a decade ago, a new study available here on Thursday shows.
The use of prescription medications by students to treat psychiatric illness has also risen significantly over the past decade, according to the study conducted by researchers at Hofstra University.
More students arrive at college campuses with preexisting conditions and more are willing to seek help, the researchers noted.
The researchers presented their findings on Thursday to the American Psychological Association annual meeting in San Diego, about 90 miles (about 145 kilometers) south of Los Angeles.
The findings were based on analysis of diagnostic records concerning nearly 3,300 undergraduate and graduate students who had sought college counseling at some point in the 10 years between 1997 and 2009.
After examining intake information concerning mental disorders, suicidal tendencies and behavioral reports, the team determined that over the years most students had been diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders and that, on average, the nature of these cases had remained relatively mild over time.
That said, the researchers did note a slight rise in the number of in-counseling students who were diagnosed with a single mental disorder, bumping up from 93 percent in 1998 to 96 percent in 2009.
In addition, among those students who sought counseling, the percentage who suffered from moderate to severe depression had risen over the years, from 34 percent to 41 percent, they found.
What's more, while just 11 percent of students in counseling had been prescribed psychiatric medications in 1998 (for depression, anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), that figure had risen to 24 percent by 2009.
Among students in counseling, the percentage who reported having had suicidal thoughts during the first two weeks of treatment had declined over the decade, from 26 percent in 1998 to just 11 percent by 2009.
The researchers attributed the drop to improvements in suicide prevention treatment and outreach.