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Idaho universities report growth in mental health issues among students

Students at Idaho’s colleges and universities are still reporting significant mental health issues after the COVID-19 pandemic spiked counseling visits.

A presentation to the Idaho State Board of Education this week outlined just how acute the problem has become.

Both Lewis-Clark State College and Boise State report counseling appointments have nearly doubled over the last several years.

“Most are talking about problems with general anxiety, depression, social anxiety and a third reporting suicide ideation,” said Andrew Hanson, vice president for student affairs at LCSC.

Rick Pongratz runs Idaho State University’s counseling and testing center and said results are similar at all higher ed institutions in the state.

“We see students reporting in more and more distress and we’re, on the other hand, really under a lot of pressure on whether or not we can retain the counselors that we have or hire people to replace them,” Pongratz said.

Throughout the pandemic, younger people reported significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression – something that remains high, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Idaho ranks among the top third of states where residents report symptoms of anxiety or depression within the last seven days.

It's also a trend over the past decade among Idaho high-schoolers.

A survey conducted by the state education department in 2021 found the percentage of students who stopped their usual activities because they felt so sad or hopeless for more than two weeks jumped from 27.3% in 2011 to 44.8% in 2021.

The number of students who reported self-harm within the past year during that time period rose more than 10%.

The presenting group said it needs to take a deeper look into the data before presenting possible solutions to board members.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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