Students of Color Less Likely to Get Mental Health Treatment

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While mental health worsened among all student groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, students of color were particularly vulnerable, according to a new study that documents inequalities in mental health care between 2013 and 2021.

The study, published by the Journal of Affective Disorders, found that in 2020–21, more than 60 percent of students met the criteria for one or more mental health problems—a nearly 50 percent increase from 2013. American Indian/Alaskan Native students experienced the largest increases in depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and other mental health conditions, the survey found. Arab American students experienced a 22 percent increase in meeting criteria for one or more mental health problems, yet the share of those students seeking treatment fell by 18 percent. And multiracial students saw a 45 percent increase in the prevalence of one or more mental health problems, while the rate of those receiving treatment only grew 9 percent from 2013 to 2021.

The study analyzed data from more than 350,000 students at 373 campuses that participated in the Healthy Minds Study, an annual web-based survey examining mental health, between 2013 and 2021. Among students meeting the criteria for one or more mental health problems, the share getting mental health treatment increased by 24 percent between 2013 and 2021.

Yet the highest annual rate of those students getting mental health treatment among Asian, Black and Latinx students was consistently at or below the lowest rate for white students. In 2020–21, 55.8 percent of white students who met the criteria for a mental health problem sought treatment, compared to 50.7 percent of multiracial students, 48.3 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native students, 40.2 percent of Arab American students, 37.7 percent of Black students and 35.9 percent of Latinx students.

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