By Tessa Heitkamp, PharmD Candidate 2020
In 2018, approximately one in three freshman reports mental health problems in the past year1. These mental health issues were also associated with reduced academic functioning. The article summarizes the steps to identify students at risk and offers additional resources faculty can utilize to combat this growing problem.
College student anxiety and mental health concerns are at an all time high, especially students enrolled in a demanding degree such as a PharmD program. Studying a subject in the medical field increases the risk factors for mental illness due to the high degree of coursework and consequences of sleep deprivation, a high stress environment, and countless extracurricular activities. A study at the University of Michigan Medical School found that 14.3% of medical students experience moderate to severe depression2. They also found that third- and fourth-year students were more likely to report suicidal ideation.
With high rates of mental health concerns in the across campus, Mental Health First Aid training is vital for both professors and students to help identify at risk students. Not only does this training teach people the warning signs of mental health problems, but the 8-hour training course also teaches people to identify, understand, and response to signs of addictions and mental illnesses. Faculty, staff, and student advisors should have a basic understanding of warning signs of mental health problems. In addition, it’s important to know whom to turn to if one has questions or concerns about a student’s behavior and how to access crisis support and other mental health services. Mental Health First Aid training provides all of these resources and more. Faculty will also learn how to stop fear and hesitation from starting conversations about mental health by improving understanding and providing an action plan to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder.
Improving knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to support a student or peer experiencing a mental health problem is becoming a necessity in a high stress environment, such as college. Metal Health First Aid has been shown to improve mental health knowledge, recognition of mental if disorders, and confidence when helping a person with a mental health problem as well as reduce the stigma around mental illness3. Mental Health First Aid also produced the same results when completed by medical students4. These findings suggest that Mental Health First Aid training can not only help faculty to identify students, but also can help students identify risk factors within themselves and their peers. To learn more about mental health first training or to take a course click here! If you would like to start learning how you can help students, faculty, and your patients struggling with mental health issues, below are a series of steps you can take to start making a positive difference now!
Iowa Crisis Text Line: Text HELLP to 741741
Counselors provide specific skills with issues such as self-harm, suicide, depression, bullying, and LGBTQ issues.
Iowa Helpline: 1-855-800-1239
SAMHSA’a National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357
MentalHealth.gov provides one-stop access to U.S. government mental health and mental health problems information. MentalHealth.gov aims to educate and guide the general public, health/emergency preparedness professionals, policy makers, government/business leaders, school systems, and local communities
NAMI, the acronym for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a grass roots, self help, education, support, and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals, families, and the community on mental illness