Study used to better understand student mental health

Krystal Miller and Carleigh Beck

Quinnipiac University administrators are conducting an online study to comprehend student mental health and wellbeing and help better understand needs on campus.

Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Health and Wellness Kerry Patton, along with a team of researchers from the University of Michigan, sent an email on Oct. 12, to all students announcing the survey, called the Healthy Minds Study.

Patton said the purpose of this survey is to better understand students’ mental health, emotional and mental health topics and support resources. 

All Quinnipiac students are invited to participate in the Healthy Minds Study. It is a 25-minute online study that is conducted by researchers at Michigan’s School of Public Health and is open for four weeks until Nov. 7. 

“The goal is that once we get feedback, is to be able to understand what are some things that the students are saying that are helpful,” Patton told the Chronicle. 

This survey does not come without the benefits for students, Patton said. Not only will students potentially have improved mental health services in the near future, but there is a possibility for them to win prizes.

Those who complete the survey will be entered in a sweepstake, in which two students will be selected to win $500, and five students will be selected to win $100.

Though Patton admits it is a lengthy survey, she highlighted the many ways it can benefit that campus environment. 

“If we saw a lot of students are using a certain substance, maybe that’s something we can tackle in a kind of programming,” Patton said. “If we’re seeing that students are feeling more depressed during midterms, how can we look at that data to inform how we can program?”

Quinnipiac is one of over 400 colleges to have students participate in the Healthy Minds Survey as a partner of the JED Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to protect the emotional and mental wellness of teenagers and young adults.

Patton said the JED initiative is a four-year commitment to assess wellness at the university. A team has been created across different disciplines to help understand policies are already in place and what can be improved upon.

This summer,  the university received a grant from Gov. Ned Lamont to improve mental health on campus. Patton said some of the money from the grant was used for Quinnipiac’s JED status.  

“I think nationally, there’s an increase when you talk about mental health,” Patton said. “One in four college students struggle with mental health issues, it’s pretty much a national increase, since COVID especially.”

According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, 44% of college students report symptoms of depression and anxiety. One of the main causes for these symptoms is the rising cost of education.

Tim Malone, a senior film, television and media arts major, said the Healthy Minds Study is an effective way to gauge the mental wellbeing of the general student population. 

He said Quinnipiac does a great job of supporting students’ mental health through the counseling services, and  knows of students that have used the services and had positive experiences.

“I feel like there’s a lot of students who want counseling and to get involved but they just don’t know what the first step is,” Malone said. 

Malone said many students struggle to deal with stress and social situations, especially when first coming to Quinnipiac. 

“I’ve talked to a lot of students, finding your place and your home your first semester, even your first two semesters, is difficult when you feel isolated, like that is when mental health is crucial to have a jump on,” Malone said. 

Julien Mercado Bonanno, a first-year media studies major, echoed Malone’s sentiment on the difficulty of transitioning into college.

“I definitely think for freshmen, coming into a new environment, you don’t necessarily know what to expect.” Mercado Bonanno said. 

Mercado Bonnano also pointed out the lack of routine and change is often the root for stress in many first-year students. 

“I think making sure students understand the resources, having the option for counseling in person and on Zoom.” Patton says.  “But we also have a new digital dashboard. It’s not an actual app, but it’s called Togetherall.” 

As for other initiatives to address student mental health, Quinnipiac promoted Togetherall, an online community where students can anonymously get support for their mental health, in last month’s parent newsletter.​​ There are also on-campus counseling services, and other online resources. 

According to the American Psychological Association, multiple studies show that 75% of people who go to therapy show some benefit from it. 

“College is a scary thing, we’re all in this together,” Mercado Bonanno said. “It’s OK to not know what you’re doing. It’s a process, it takes time. . . Give yourself time to adjust, and talk to people if you need to.”