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Book Reviews   |    
Mental Health Care in the College Community

Mental Health Care in the College Community
by Jerald Kay,Victor Schwartz.; West Sussex, United Kingdom, John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 2010, 396 pages, $61.95

Reviewed by SuEllen Hamkins, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2011; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.62.8.981
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Copyright © 2011 by the American Psychiatric Association.

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College mental health has become a hot topic in psychiatry, sparked by the tragic mass shooting and suicide at Virginia Tech in April 2007 and fueled by high-profile suicides at eminent universities in the past decade. College students are expressing emotional distress, seeking mental health services, and utilizing psychotropic medications in record numbers. In this inflamed atmosphere, editors Kay and Schwartz provide exactly what is needed: a comprehensive text that thoughtfully and thoroughly addresses nearly every aspect of the delivery of mental health care in the college community.

Drawing on the experience of college counseling center directors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, researchers, attorneys, and educators from across the country, Mental Health Care in the College Community is a beautifully organized resource that is encyclopedic in its scope and detail. It offers administrators the why and how-to of creating state-of-the-art services that include crisis intervention, triage, psychotherapy, medication consultation, testing, referral, outreach, working with parents, and training psychiatry residents and psychology and social work interns. The authors are attuned to the specific needs of the college environment, among the most pressing of which is timeliness. College students are constrained by academic deadlines that can make or break their educational and career goals, and those stresses correspondingly exacerbate or incite mental health symptoms. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, and the authors offer triage and crisis intervention approaches that have been shown to reduce completed suicides on several college campuses. Likewise, appropriate triage eliminates the need for the dreaded “waiting list,” an unfortunate staple of many college counseling services. In addition to citing research findings that could be used to justify the need for services, Mental Health Care in the College Community offers a sample triage form, guidelines for working with suicidal students, suggestions for responding to traumatic incidents that affect large numbers of students, such as a public suicide, and case examples, among other concrete resources.

Psychiatrists and psychotherapists who work with college students, whether within a college counseling service or a private practice setting, will find this book to be useful in understanding the larger college context and the specific needs and preferences of today's “millennial generation,” who differ from the baby boomers and Gen-Xers. One chapter offers brief, useful information about some unique student populations, such as athletes, veterans, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and sexually questioning students, but the book is disappointingly lacking in addressing the contexts and needs of students of color. Likewise, the book gets low marks for neglecting to address racial identity development, recruiting a multicultural staff, creating a work environment that is supportive of clinicians of color, or developing cultural competency among staff. Useful information is provided for supervisors of interns or residents and those seeking to create training programs. What the book does not offer is comprehensive clinical information about the diagnosis and treatment of mental health challenges most common among college students.

Although any professional working in any context that touches on the mental well-being of college students would benefit from this book, it is most applicable for those with administrative, supervisory, training, or outreach responsibilities. Mental Health Care in the College Community is a comprehensive resource that offers a myriad of current best practices.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.

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