Breaking news: Research shows that improving campus attitudes towards mental health enhances student success AND saves taxpayer’s money!
Let’s be real, all of us who are advocating for mental wellness on college campuses every day could have told everyone that a long time ago… but still, this is a big deal! We now have some solid data that definitely proves that our work is working, and we are on the right track with the most effective approaches to mental health promotion.
So, here’s the scoop:
A major study conducted at public colleges throughout California set out to assess factors that influence mental health services utilization among students, and the potential societal impact of investing in mental health programs on campus. The RAND Corporation researchers who led the study surveyed a total of 33,943 students, and 14,018 faculty and staff at 39 public universities throughout California.
Here’s what they learned.
1. Students on campuses where there was a supportive environment for mental health issues were more than 20% more likely to receive mental health services than their peers on campuses where mental health issues are more stigmatized.
2. On campuses that have invested in mental health prevention and early intervention efforts (think: reducing stigma, reaching out, normalizing mental health) we saw the percentage of students who were receiving treatment for their mental health issues increase by 13%.
3. For every $1 invested in prevention and early intervention efforts, the state of California sees a $6.49 return. This return on investment reflects the hundreds of additional students who will graduate because they received the support that they needed, will go on to get higher paying jobs that will stimulate the economy, and need fewer emergency services related to mental health crises.
4. Students with active coping skills were consistently more likely to use mental health services compared with their peers who did not possess these skills. Lesson learned: focus attention on teaching students how to manage stress.
(Speaking of which.)
5. If the culture of every California public college campus was supportive of mental wellness, we could expect to see a rise in the use of mental health services among students with current mental health symptoms, or recent academic impairment related to mental health issues, by an average of 39%.
This is groundbreaking research that has the potential to enhance our capacity as a society to become more accepting, welcoming, and supportive of the mental health challenges that so many of us experience. Hopefully this serves as some fuel for the outstanding work that you are doing on your campuses and in your communities, and that we are seeing throughout our amazing Active Minds network!
For those of you who like data and research reports, and want to learn more, here are the links to the two referenced in this blog: