Mental and Behavioral Health
A university in the UK announced that it will monitor student social media posts, among other data, in an effort to determine suicide ideation among students. The project is part of a pilot program, called Early Alert Tool, that uses aggregate data to identify whether someone is dealing with mental health issues as a way to reduce suicide rates among university students. According to a press release, the university already looks at data like academic standing, lecture attendance and library use to flag potential mental health issues. The data will be protected, and the program will be opt-in, so students will have to consent to sharing information.
Penn State’s class “The Art and Science of Human Flourishing” has been so popular among students, it will now be offered at seven of the school’s campuses and will be evaluated for possible outcomes in increased student health and well-being. Penn State joins the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin in conducting a quasi-experimental, control group study using pre- and post-test data from students to evaluate possible outcomes from the course, including increases in mindfulness, empathy, compassion, meaning and purpose; and aspects of mental health, such as decreases in anxiety and depressive symptoms. “There is a growing body of research around mindset issues and the psychology of belonging that suggest that even small interventions can have a big impact on student success,” said Jeff Adams, associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education at Penn State.
The Ohio State University student newspaper, The Lantern, reviewed the state of mental health services at OSU over the 2018-2019 academic year. In April 2018, when two students fell from the same OSU parking garage within days of each other in apparent suicides, University President Michael V. Drake created a Suicide and Mental Health Task Force aimed at developing suggestions of how to improve the mental health resources at Ohio State. In February, Ohio State’s Digital Flagship initiative kicked off the creation of a university resource-specific mental wellness app. Also in February, the task force began recruiting students for the Buckeye Peer Access Line, a non-emergency phone line staffed by trained students during late night and early morning hours.
Gerald Shreiber, president and CEO of J&J Snack Foods Corp. in New Jersey, has committed $3 million to create an animal therapy program at Rowan University. Shreiber’s gift will establish an endowment for a self-sustaining program that will make certified therapy dogs regular fixtures in several student-support efforts.
According to The Spartan Newsroom at Michigan State University, graduate students face increased stress from financial pressures and isolation. Kevin Bird, a board member of the Graduate Employees Union at MSU, says that many students have family or long-term relationships and find it hard to juggle their studies and financial responsibilities. “This culture of overwork really feeds into isolation,” Bird said. “People feel like they’re failing their duty as a grad student if they’re not working enough, or if they take time to be social.” The issue of isolation and not feeling like you belong, sometimes known as “imposter syndrome,” plagues the university community at large, but especially graduate students, said Quaneece Calhoun, a pre-doctoral psychology practicum counselor at Wayne State University and a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan School of Psychology.
Ursula Whiteside, a University of Washington clinical psychologist, created NowMattersNow.org, an immediate and accessible resource for people experiencing suicidal thoughts. Now Matters Now includes videos of people who have dealt with suicidal ideation and been able to live successful lives sharing their stories and methods they used, specifically dialectical behavior therapy techniques, to overcome severe depression. The website has been found to significantly reduce the intensity of negative emotions in under 10 minutes. “I wanted to be able to make it so these stories were really accessible,” Whiteside said. “Not only showing that they survived but how they survived.”
Preliminary results from a new study suggest that there is a dose-response relationship between insufficient sleep and mental health symptoms in collegiate students. The data show that for every additional night of insufficient sleep, an increase of more than 20% for various mental health symptoms including depressed mood (21%), hopelessness (24%), anger (24%), for anxiety (25%), desire to self-harm (25%), and for suicide ideation (28%).
An elective class on mental health first aid at Washington State University has had a waiting list since its inception three years ago. “Historically our focus on mental health has been the medications and treatments available,” said Jennifer Robinson, the creator of the class and associate dean for professional education at the pharmacy college. “I wanted to give students some more soft skills and good tools so they can respond appropriately when somebody within their sphere is struggling.” Robinson previously led the college’s student services, where she experienced the issue firsthand. “I’d see students in the hallway and it would appear they had everything together, then they’d come to my office and it was clear that their world was crumbling around them,” she said. “There were using all this energy to be able to hold on to the façade that everything was OK.”