202888 Mental disorders, self harm, and help seeking among U.S. college students

Monday, November 9, 2009: 5:30 PM

Theresa K. Jackson, PhD, MPH , Department of Health Science, Towson University, Towson, MD

Recent literature highlights increased levels of mental distress in college students today. Understanding their mental health status and help seeking behaviors is critical to develop effective health promotion and educational programming.


Data analyzed in this study were collected in spring 2007 from students attending 7 U.S. universities using the revised online National College Health Assessment (N = 6,110). Analyses focus on diagnosis/treatment for mental health conditions in the last 12 months, self injury and suicide ideation, and help seeking. Frequencies and chi-square analyses were performed to determine if statistically significant differences existed across a variety of demographics.


Altogether, 17.1% of students reported diagnosis/treatment for a mental health condition in the last 12 months and 9.4% experienced mental health comorbidities. The most common conditions were depression (9.3%) and anxiety (8.5%); further, 6.0% seriously considered suicide and 5.6% engaged in self-injurious behaviors. In total, 36.4% of students ever received care from a mental health provider and 13.0% received care from their current institution. Two-thirds of students reported a willingness to seek help for mental health concerns in the future. Statistically significant differences existed in nearly all variables across gender, race/ethnicity, and year in school (p<.01).


Approximately 1 in 5 college students in this sample was diagnosed/treated for a mental health condition in the last year. Fortunately, many students have and are willing to seek help. Differences in responses across demographics highlight the need for critical intervention and education among specific groups including males, non-White students, and underclassmen.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to: (1) Describe the 12-month prevalence of a variety of mental health conditions among U.S. college students. (2) Discuss the percentage of college students who engage in suicide ideation and self injurious behaviors. (3) Identify patterns of college students' past help-seeking behaviors as well as their willingness to seek help in the future. (4) Compare the prevalence of mental disorders, suicide ideation and self harm, and help seeking by gender, race/ethnicity, and year in school.

Keywords: Mental Health, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently a tenure track faculty member in the Department of Health Science at Towson University. My MPH is in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and my docorate is in Public and Community Health from the University of Maryland. I have worked in the college health setting for approximately 5 years and have presented my research at a variety of annual meetings, including 2 previous APHA mettings.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.