West Virginia’s mental health crisis

College students have a lot on their plates, as they glean what they can from academia to prepare themselves for the real world, while also making the leap from childhood to adulthood. Meanwhile, they feel compelled to address social issues crying out for change, and perhaps walk a tightrope between the family and community in which they were raised and the big new adventures awaiting them. They’ve got their own physical and mental wellbeing to look after, even as they are beginning to understand they are not invincible … but it might be up to them to save the world, anyway.

There are a variety of reasons their mental health could be strained, but not so many avenues for addressing those issues in a healthy manner.

A group of more than 50 student leaders representing Mountain State colleges and universities met recently at the West Virginia Student Leadership Conference to discuss student mental health, among other issues. Goals include reducing the stigma around mental health, providing mental health intervention services, and training students to be mental health advocates.

“Mental health is one of the biggest concerns facing college students of all ages statewide,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia Chancellor of Higher Education. “I am so proud of these students for emerging as leaders on their campuses and for coming together as a strong, collective statewide voice on this critical issue.”

Make no mistake, if you are among those rolling your eyes at such an effort, you’re part of the problem. But you are not alone.

These young people face an uphill battle in a prideful, “tough” state that has struggled to develop an understanding that mental health care is health care, plain and simple.

But the student leaders who attended WVSLC appear undaunted. They’ll need all the help they can get in accomplishing their goal to give all West Virginia college students a better shot at success through improved mental health care. If we can’t help them, we’d better get out of their way.


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