When advocating for student mental health on your campus, do you ever feel like something is missing? Like you could convince more people to support the cause if only you had hard cold numbers to support your argument?
Don’t worry. We’ve got just what you need: the Healthy Minds Study! Designed specifically for colleges and universities, HMS is an online survey of student mental health, service utilization, and related issues. There are approximately a gazillion ways in which HMS research can help Active Minds chapters but we’ll focus on just a few for now.
Assessing need: It’s pretty hard to advocate for mental health programs and resources without answers to basic questions such as:
What proportion of students on our campus are experiencing mental health problems?
Which mental health problems are most common on our campus?
Which students are struggling but not seeking help?
With HMS data, you’ll be able to answer these questions and more! HMS contains validated screening tools that assess symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other conditions. Check out the complete questionnaire here.
Raising awareness: Once you have data to answer basic questions about the state of mental health on your campus, you can begin to raise awareness about specific issues. For example, if you find that a certain sub-population of students, let’s say international students, has higher rates of stigma (as is the case in national HMS data), you can target outreach and education efforts towards these students specifically. You can also report key findings from HMS in campus campaigns, as shown here in an infographic about LGBTQI student mental health.
Comparing to peer institutions: Since its national launch in 2007, HMS has been fielded at over 100 colleges and universities, with over 100,000 survey respondents. Once your campus participates in HMS, you’ll be granted access to the interactive data interface (login as a guest to check it out!): http://data.healthymindsnetwork.org. In a drop-down menu format, the data interface allows individuals to easily generate graphs and tables for presentations. Through the data interface, you’ll be able to see how HMS outcomes on your campus compare with peer institutions, as shown in this example for University of Michigan.
Speaking the language of higher ed administrators: Even though student mental health is important in its own right, it can be difficult to get the attention of top-level administrators without showing how mental health relates to other outcomes. To advocate effectively, you need to speak their language. In higher education, there are few things more important than student retention. As part of the data reporting from HMS, campuses receive a brief, customized memo summarizing how their data translate to an economic case for student mental health services and programs. This case is illustrated below:
So there you have it—the top reasons to bring HMS to your campus! As an Active Minds student leader, we know that this study will be invaluable in your work to change the conversation about mental health.
Sarah Lipson is the Associate Director of The Healthy Minds Network.