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November 19, 2007

UMBC Experts Discuss “Mental Illness and the Campus Community”

Kavan Peterson
Office: 410-455-1896

BALTIMORE -- Faculty and staff experts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) will discuss “Mental Illness and the Campus Community” at this year’s Mosaic Roundtable, sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Studies (INDS) program. The free, public event will be held Tuesday, November 27, 4-6 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom.

In the wake of Virginia Tech University’s deadly shooting rampage, colleges nationwide have made campus security a top priority and have been reexamining policies dealing with students affected by mental illness.

But some critics at UMBC say that looking at mental health issues in the context of Virginia Tech’s massacre perpetuates a false stigma equating mental illness with violent outbreaks. Instead, college campuses need to encourage open dialogue about the facts of mental illness and the need for increased services for those impacted by depression and mental disorders, said INDS Director Patricia Lanoue.

“Substance abuse, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and other dimensions of mental illness have been a growing problem on college campuses nationwide,” LaNoue said.

LaNoue called the statistics sobering: 37 percent of college students reported they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function,” in a 2006 National Student Health Survey. Seven percent of college students have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, according to recent research conducted by UCLA. Suicide is among the top three leading causes of death for people ages 10 to 24 and the average onset age for most severe types of mental illnesses is 18 to 24, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

In addition, 92 percent of college counseling directors believe that the number of students with severe psychological problems has increased in recent years, according to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors conducted by the International Association of Counseling Services in 2006. The survey found that 40 percent of students who seek campus counseling services have “severe psychological problems.”

UMBC Counseling Services data indicate that the most common mental health issues reported by UMBC students are anxiety/stress disorders, depression, academic problems, relationship problems and time management problems, said J. Lavelle Ingram, director of University Counseling Services, who will speak at the Mosaic Roundtable about behavioral indicators for mental illness and appropriate responses.

The media plays a large role in promoting inaccurate stigmas and stereotypes of people with mental illness, said Carolyn Tice, an associate dean in UMBC's department of Social Work, who will also speak at the Mosaic Roundtable. Events such as the Virginia Tech massacre often result in media frenzies. Also, a survey conducted for the Screen Actors’ Guild found that characters in prime time television portrayed as having mental illness are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups.

Conversely, research indicates that people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators. Researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke recently reported that people with severe mental illness – schizophrenia, bipoloar disorder or psychosis – are two and half times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.

“One in three Americans will experience a form of mental disorder at some point in their lives,” LaNoue said. “The Mosaic Roundtable, created to address complex issues from a multidisciplinary perspective, is one way we can contribute to sharing knowledge and provide an opportunity for the campus community and the public to ask questions.”

Also speaking at this event:

Charles Milligan, executive director of the Center for Health Program Development and Management, will discuss patient confidentiality and counselors’ responsibilities in protecting the safety of third parties.

Carlo DiClemente, professor of psychology, will address addictions and the overlap between drinking, drug use and mental illness, as well as how abuse can contribute to emotional programs and mental illness.

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UMBC is a medium-sized public research university of 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students who collaborate with professors on real-world challenges. Located just south of Baltimore near I-95 and the BWI airport, UMBC's residential campus houses state-of-the-art facilities in the sciences, engineering, arts, social sciences and humanities. UMBC combines the energy of a research university with the close community feel and attention to individual students found in liberal arts colleges.

Posted by kavan at November 19, 2007 3:14 PM