Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Adolescent on Psych Meds Goes To College: What Happens Next?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 9, 2015


Student mental health services have not kept up with the growing demand, brought on by our explosion in diagnosing ADHD, Asperger’s Disorder, Depression and Anxiety in adolescence. Consequently, kids who are properly and improperly labeled and/or medicated come to college without the mental health resources they had in high school. Plus, the availability of drugs and alcohol give way to an epidemic of untreated college students, occasionally with tragic outcomes of suicide, unintentional overdoses and mass shootings. I propose the following solution. Have psychiatrists run mental health clinics at colleges and university and in so doing, there could be a better triage system of care. Of course, not everyone with a mental health issue reaches out for services, but for those that do, they need to be reassessed and properly guided towards what they need. This is in contrast to the current system in which the college student goes to student health, has a limited number of visits, and medications are done on a “drive-by” basis. Yes, my proposal is more costly, but given the cost of both public and private universities, these days, the money for these resources must be there. Plus, college students can be on their parents’ insurance plans and as such, there is another revenue source (in addition to student fees) which can support this major overhaul. College is prime time for the onset of serious substance abuse, chronic mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. It is also the time when coping skills can be severely challenged, and issues of feeling lost, hopeless, and unlovable can reach a fever pitch. Mental health services are critical to get these “kids” on a good life path. They need to put their interior life into perspective, and many need professional assistance to separate from their parents and develop their own identity. As the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has initiated, there should be a dean of wellness on every campus. This dean needs to be a psychiatrist, given the complexity of mental states. Anyone want to hire me?

5 Responses to “The Adolescent on Psych Meds Goes To College: What Happens Next?”

  1. Ashana M said

    But I think it leaves a question unanswered. Why are our young people so sick? Are human beings really so broken as a species that they need specialized help to mature?

    • Ashana M said

      I should also add that tuition and fees typically cover 60% of the cost of running a university.

      • I do not think young people are so sick. I think that coping has always been challenging, but now we have tools (psych drugs) to help young people, but the colleges have not kept pace with the new demand.

        Yes, public universities can argue about the expense of it all, but private universities with hefty fees and hefty endowments have a harder time making a cost argument.


  2. Shelly said

    I think the current system is run just like the entire health system in the US, is it not? If a young person has anxiety or a mental health issue, he sees a therapist for a certain number of visits, may get a prescription by a physician, and that’s it. I’m not sure that you can fix the system since it is inherent in the entire health system as a whole in America. But I do like your suggestion and think it is a wise one.

    • Yes, but this issue of college students and their mental health is new since 1990, as never before have so many students entered college on psychotropic medication. No one seemed to think downstream about these kids, such that college became a big mental health cliff in which most kids abandoned their meds, some without consequence, and some with deeply painful consequences. The system can be fixed, but it needs to be prioritized, and at the moment, the focus is on mental health in prisons, and not in colleges, so the political dollar is not behind it, at the moment. Thanks.

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