250321 Participatory Action Research and planning in college student mental health promotion: Design and implementation of a multi-method study exploring resiliency resources

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ester R. Shapiro, PhD , Psychology and Gaston Institute Center, University of Massachusetts at Boston, Boston, MA
Elizabeth Mongillo, PhD , Victims of Violence Program, Cambridge Health Alliance, Somerville, MA
Speshal Walker, BA , Psychology and Gaston Institute, University of Massachusetts at Boston, Boston, MA
Esroruleh Tamim Mohammad, BA , Health Promotion Research Group, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA
Darcy Alcantara, BA , Psychology and Gaston Institute, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Boston, MA
Hercilia Corona-Ordoņez, MA , Psychology and Gaston Institute, University of Massachusetts at Boston, Boston, MA
Kathleen Golden McAndrew, MSN, ANP-BC, COHN-S, FAAOHN, FAANP, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Executive Director of Health Services , University Health Services, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Boston, MA
Background: Recent research reports increased mental health distress on college campuses. Yet many undergraduates refuse traditional mental health services, a problem increased for ethnically and racially diverse and commuter students. Purpose: This study reports findings from multi-method, participatory action research identifying risk factors and resiliency resources for diverse undergraduates on an urban commuter college campus, to inform mental health promotion program design incorporating culturally meaningful, student-centered resiliency resources. Significance: The study applied ecological models and participatory methods to mental health promotion, expanding sites for delivering resiliency resources and guiding campus-wide mental health and wellness initiatives. Methodology: Steps in this student-partnered research project included campus-wide forums, needs assessments, an anonymous online self-report survey of academic, realistic and life-events stressors, personal, familial, cultural and community resiliency resources used and barriers experienced; and a participatory-action research seminar including students in recovery from major mental illness and gender-based violence who reviewed data and developed recommendations. Results: The survey results (N=960; 50% non-white participants) found students experienced high rates of realistic and life events stressors, with 30% reporting Hopkins symptom checklist clinical equivalent means. The research identified common stressors including high rates of exposure to violence, economic and academic stress, discrimination, and barriers to services access. Resilience resources at multiple levels of student ecologies, including family supports, ethnic-identity and spirituality, were found to significantly protect mental health outcomes from adverse consequences of stressors. Conclusions/Recommendations: Students recommended a peer resource navigators program emphasizing empowerment and focused on educational success, and participated in its design and implementation.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Program planning
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Design a study of risk and resiliency factors mental health promotion for diverse urban college students Identify stressors in multiple systems burdening mental health and academic performance of diverse students Describe culturally meaningful protective factors associated with student resilience, recovery and wellness

Keywords: College Students, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted research and published papers in mental health in schools and community settings
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.