Idaho Ed News

The education world loves metrics. But Idaho is short one yardstick.

Idaho doesn’t have a clear method of measuring school mental health issues. The best anyone can do is cobble together some mismatched statistics that suggest the problem is getting worse — and quickly.

The State Board of Education heard this grim assessment Tuesday, during a brief but powerful presentation shoehorned into the tail end of an all-day meeting on the University of Idaho campus. A panel of college and university administrators delivered a simple, straightforward message. The state can’t fully look at academic performance — and the obstacles to student success — without staring straight into the eye of mental health.

“If somebody is feeling so dissociated, so lonely, so depressed that they’re not even sure they want to live, getting them interested in learning more about mathematics or any other subject is almost impossible,” said Andrew Hanson, vice president for student affairs at Lewis-Clark State College.

The numbers, such as they are, paint an alarming picture. Here are a few snapshots:

  • Boise State University reported 8,162 “counseling encounters” during the fall 2022 semester. This number has doubled over the past five years.
  • Lewis-Clark has seen a similar spike: 2,804 face-to-face counseling appointments last fall, compared to 1,501 just four years ago.
  • The caseload at Idaho State University is increasing in number — and in severity. Last fall, more than 43% of students who came in for a counseling appointment said they had “seriously considered” suicide.
  • At the College of Southern Idaho, 97% of students who sought counseling reported feeling depression or anxiety, up from 62% the previous school year.

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