Mental health resources in Florida have always been low. The state consistently ranks lowest for spending on mental health according to data. Florida’s psychiatrists worry that this continuous underfunding is having dire consequences. With multiple shootings in the past few years, the light has been shining harshly on Florida’s dismal mental health.
Of the 12 state universities in Florida, eight of them are short on mental health counselors. The need for mental health services on campus has continued to grow. This demand is a positive thing; it means more people are recognizing they need help and seeking it. Students at universities are going through a life-changing period full of stress and isolation.
The problem is that universities don’t have the resources to meet the rising demand. The university system’s Board of Governors have has for a $7 million increase in mental health funding but it’s still unclear if this will be granted or not.
Right now only 4 state universities meet the minimum staffing levels. Universities and mental health professional worry that if the new budget isn’t granted even these schools will begin to be understaffed as the demands for their services continue to rise.
The International Association of Counseling Services recommends at least one counselor for every 1,000-1,500 students. Most schools are so short staffed they are at more than double that with over 2,000 students per counselor. Universities report that issues around anxiety, relationship problems, depression, academic stress, and suicide were what students seek help with most. If left untreated these issues could spiral into something more severe leading to students causing harm to themselves or others.
In the past universities have dealt with the rising demand in a number of ways. Some have limited the frequency or length of the counseling session. Others have waiting lists or refer students to other services and psychiatrists in the community. These are simply short-term solutions though that will cause much bigger problems in the long run.
The governor and state are expected to reveal their new budget and university funding in the coming week. Only time will tell if the state has decided to finally take an active role in combating mental health issues. Florida’s top psychiatrist believe that getting help as early as possible is the key to stopping issues from becoming worse later on in life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health problem contact one of Florida’s top psychiatrist to get support and help.