Study Shows Increased Effort To Remove Stigma From Mental Health Issues

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It isn’t always easy for young people to admit that they suffer from depression, anxiety, or other related conditions. However, a new study suggests that college campuses in the United States are doing their part to remove the stigma linked to mental health issues, and that many students are more aware of these problems than they had previously been.

According to ABC News, a recent study conducted by student-peer organization Active Minds saw the nonprofit recruit more than 1,000 students across 12 colleges in California to see how well they understand the importance of mental health. RAND Corporation senior physicians policy researcher Dr. Bradley Stein, who evaluated the study, told the publication that these students signed up to the study through a number of channels, including college fairs and social media, and were asked to take identical surveys in September and November of 2016 and April, 2017. The researchers then evaluated how the answers of the students changed from one survey to the next.

For their study, the researchers’ methodologies included the use of the Likert scale, which is defined as an “agreement” scale that determines how strongly a person agrees with a statement. In this situation, lower Likert scores were considered better, as that meant the students felt that there was less of a stigma surrounding mental health issues. These findings were a “pleasant surprise” to the researchers, who saw lower agreement scores over time, suggesting that the stigma is progressively decreasing.

In all, about 60 percent of the students who took part in the surveys had lower scores from the first survey to the last, and were shown to be more aware about mental health issues once the 2016-17 academic year was wrapping up.

“As we followed the college students, we found that they became more aware and more involved in mental health issues, based on their responses,” Stein observed.

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As explained in a press release posted on the RAND website, about 20 to 36 percent of college students deal with psychological issues, but only a third or so of them receive the services they need, despite how it isn’t uncommon for on-campus assistance to be readily available. Based on the study’s findings, Stein believes that student-run groups like Active Minds could have a significant impact in making colleges more supportive toward mental health issues.

“College is a challenging time in the lives of the state’s young adults so it’s important to make sure students’ mental health needs are adequately addressed,” added Wayne Clark, California Mental Health Services Authority executive director, in a statement.

Going forward, study lead author and RAND behavioral social scientist Lisa Sontag-Padilla believes that more research is needed in order to determine what specific activities organized by Active Minds are most instrumental in helping decrease the stigma linked to mental health issues, and how the nonprofit’s involvement can improve a student’s mental health and their chances of asking for help if needed.