Online Program

Mental health and mental illness information preferences of undergraduate students

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Mindy Menn, PhD, CHES, Department of Health Studies, Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX
Caroline Payne-Purvis, PhD, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, MS
Don Chaney, PhD, MCHES, Department of Health Education and Promotion, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
As the portability of internet-enabled devices increases, more young adults have access to internet-based mental health resources in more locations than ever before. This study assessed and examined students’ ‘starting points’, preferences, and perceptions when searching for mental health and mental illness information.

Undergraduate students (n=370) enrolled in thirteen colleges within a large southeastern university participated in an online-delivered questionnaire. Recognizing the data’s primarily categorical nature, descriptive statistics and chi-square tests were conducted.

Participants reported ‘always’ or ‘usually’ receiving social and emotional support as needed (78.4%). When asked “which source do you FIRST consult when searching for mental health information” and “mental illness information”, 38.6% and 44.3% respectively indicated Google as their first information destination.  For mental health and mental illness information, “parents” were the next most popular initial information source with 17.6% and 15.9%, respectively, followed by Internet sites (excluding Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) with 7.8% and 12.7% respectively. Most participants consistently perceived mobile apps as “not at all credible” information sources regarding mental health.

Two primary sources students sought for mental health and mental illness information are online and away from social media hubs. Individuals working with college students and specifically individuals responsible for creating internet-based and social media based educational materials for a college student audience would benefit from redirecting resources away from campaigns and initiatives predicated upon social media messages. Researchers and practitioners are encouraged to reallocate resources towards evidence-based mental health website development and developing techniques to increase students’ e-literacy to locate valuable mental health information online.  

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify two types of internet-delivered mental health resources accessed by undergraduate students.

Keyword(s): Mental Health, Information Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the co-investigator on this research endeavor. I hold a PhD degree in Health and Human Performance and a Master of Science degree in Health Education.
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.