Universities, Colleges and Secondary Education Resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing possible symptoms of mental illness there are two things you should know:
First, get help immediately. Research has shown the sooner someone can begin treatment the better their long-term prognosis.
Second, recovery is possible. There is hope for individuals with a mental illness and there are many great people ready to help. Seek treatment and start your recovery.
In 2018, researchers who surveyed almost 14,000 first-year college students (in eight countries) found that 35 percent struggled with a mental illness, particularly depression or anxiety. Here in the U.S., college students seeking mental health services report that anxiety is their #1 concern—and it is on the rise.
Many universities offer free, readily accessible screenings for their students.
For example, Drexel University’s Recreation Center has a mental-health kiosk where students can “get a checkup from the neck up.” Students can stop by for a couple of minutes to answer a quick series of questions on a private screen. At the end of the screening, students receive information regarding additional mental health resources and supports, as needed.
Currently, UCLA offers a more formalized screening option. As part of an interdisciplinary research project to solve major global health problems, researchers there are conducting massive online screenings to measure anxiety and depression in 100,000 students, staff, and faculty.
This four-year study, the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge, features a 15-minute online assessment where participants learn whether they might have mild to severe anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. As appropriate, they can receive mental health treatment, including counseling services, a referral to receive trained peer support, or the option to participate in an interactive online program called This Way Up. In addition, researchers monitor participants throughout the four years.
Despite the resources available, students aren’t necessarily verbalizing their own mental health struggles—and many don’t know exactly how to help peers who appear to be lonely, sad, or distant. How do we start the conversation?
At least 350 colleges now utilize an online simulation program called Kognito that helps students learn how to talk to friends who may be suffering emotionally, directing them to appropriate resources. When students enter Kognito’s virtual campus, they learn more about mental health from a handful of virtual students, and they talk with a virtual student in distress. After trying out several different approaches, they learn the most effective ways to respond to their virtual peer.
Texting for support is another option. The University of Sioux Falls is one of the first South Dakota colleges to offer a free texting hotline for their students. The nonprofit Text4Hope aims to provide college students with options if they are worried about a particular friend, overwhelmed by academic stress themselves, or feeling lonely, depressed, or suicidal. Trained members of the Helpline Center are ready to respond to texts 24/7. They also invite students to check out their Instagram feed at #sdhopenotes, featuring notes of encouragement that students leave around colleges and universities throughout the state (e.g., “Be true to you!,” “Go girl!,” “Life is not a solo act. People love you!,” “I survived because someone listened…even through texting”).
On a much larger scale, Active Minds is a national organization dedicated to mental health advocacy that currently hosts more than 450 campus chapters. Alison Malmon founded the organization in 2003 as a result of her brother Brian’s suicide. “After my brother’s death, and knowing how preventable it was, I resolved—no matter what—to do something to change the way we approach mental health in this country,” she says. Malmon wants other students to understand that they don’t need to feel ashamed if they are experiencing anxiety and depression—and that seeking help is a sign of strength rather than weakness.
In a 2018 study of Active Minds, researchers surveyed 1,129 students at 12 universities in California three times during the school year to assess their involvement with the Active Minds organization and their resulting attitudes and knowledge about mental health. Students with low to moderate engagement with Active Minds at the start of the school year reported an increase in mental health awareness and a decrease in negative, stigmatizing attitudes about mental illness by the end of the year. Most importantly, they claimed that they were more likely to help another student in crisis (e.g., by providing emotional support or connecting them with services) after involvement in student-run events through Active Minds.
With a Speaker’s Bureau sharing personal stories of hope, a “Send Silence Packing” traveling exhibit to increase awareness and prevent suicide, as well as peer-run mental health clubs and support networks, Active Minds is opening up the conversation around mental health and leveraging the power of peer-to-peer outreach to change campus culture.
Each Mind Matters is California’s Mental Health Movement. We are millions of individuals and thousands of organizations working to advance mental health. Each Mind Matters was created to unite all of us who share a vision of improved mental health and equality. For more information, please visit www.eachmindmatters.org
The Jed Foundation is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health. For more information, please visit https://www.jedfoundation.org/
Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight. For more information, please visit www.proud2bme.org
If you are seeking help, contact the school you are attending as see if you have resources available locally.
Sources & References:
Technology and college student mental health: challenges and opportunities. Front Psychiatry. 2019.
No health without mental health. Lancet. 2007.