Incorporating a brief mental health curriculum into a course for college freshmen can increase student awareness and early intervention for mental health problems
AffiliationUniversity of Southern indiana
TitleIncorporating a brief mental health curriculum into a course for college freshmen can increase student awareness and early intervention for mental health problems
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Student retention through graduation is negatively impacted by impaired mental health (Pedrelli, et al. 2015). According to an annual report by the Center for Collegiate Mental health (CCMH), more than 150,000 college students sought treatment for mental health concerns in 2016, which was a 50% increase over 2015 (CCMH, 2016). The purpose of this presentation is to suggest a potential model to engage students in conversations related to mental health. By empowering peer educators to address and open conversations about mental health concerns in a preemptive way, students will benefit. A mental health curriculum was developed to be piloted in a course required for all college freshmen. Objectives were to direct students to (a) self-assess mental health status, (b) recognize mental illness and suicide threat behaviors, and (c) identify and acquire mental health care. Student learning to meet the objectives occurred through media presentation, providing students with relevant resources, faculty presentation and guided discussions among small student groups. Campus and community resources were provided, and a team member from the USI Counseling Center participated in a majority of class sessions. Students were assigned to small peer groups to work together for the purpose of generating short videos that demonstrated strategies to deal with relevant hypothetical cases based on real life experiences. Class discussions encouraged student reflections of the cases and alternate perspectives were encouraged among the class. The short curriculum has been incorporated into UNIV101 courses for four semesters, which has involved more than 250 students. Pre/post surveys consisting of seven questions on a four-point Likert scale showed significant differences from pre to post on every question in every cohort (p<0.001). This provided evidence that student knowledge and perceptions were positively impacted by the brief mental health curriculum, indicating that it was highly successful in meeting stated objectives. Mental health impairment often interferes with a student’s school performance, and many factors prevent students from seeking help, including stigma that surrounds mental illness, lack of adequate resources and student knowledge about those available resources. This project addressed all those issues.
Center for Collegiate Mental health. (2016). Department of educational psychology, counseling, and special education, Penn State University. http://ccmh.psu.edu/publications/
Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M. , Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2015). College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations. Academic Psychiatry, 39(5): 503–511. doi: 10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9