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Identifying mental health related help-seeking beliefs in undergraduate engineers

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Sarah Wilson University of Kentucky

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Sarah is an assistant profession in chemical engineering at the University of Kentucky. Her research is in engineering education and focused on understanding internal barriers to success within engineering.

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Joseph Hammer

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Associate Professor of counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky. Studies what helps or stops people from seeking mental health care when they need it.

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Melanie Miller


Courtney Wright University of Kentucky

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Courtney Wright is a Counseling Psychology PhD student. She has a BA in Applied Psychology and Human Development and MA in Mental Health Counseling from Boston College. Courtney is the Graduate Research Assistant for Dr. Sarah Wilson's NSF funded Research Initiation in Engineering Formation team.

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Lucy Hargis

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Ellen Usher

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There has been an alarming increase in the prevalence of mental health concerns amongst undergraduate students. Engineering students experiencing mental health distress are less likely to seek professional help than are non-engineering students. Lack of treatment can result in the escalation of mental health symptoms among engineering students. This study, supported by an NSF Research Initiation in Engineering Formation grant, focused on characterizing engineering students’ beliefs about seeking help for a mental health concern. Using the integrated behavioral model as a framework, 33 semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with engineering students from a wide range of majors, years of study, and social identity groups. Interviews were analyzed through deductive coding to identify key beliefs associated with help-seeking as defined by the integrated behavioral model. The beliefs identified include a desire among engineering students to fix their own problems, to avoid admitting imperfection, and fear of being seen by others when seeking help for a mental health concern. These results were used to create an engineering mental health help-seeking instrument containing items related to perceived outcomes/attributes, experiential (i.e., affective) beliefs, barriers/facilitators, and perceived norms associated with help seeking. This instrument is currently being refined through cognitive interviews, and pilot data will be collected to examine evidence of instrument reliability and validity. The finalized instrument will be used to identify those beliefs that are predictive of help-seeking intention and behavior. These beliefs are prime targets for future interventions designed to increase mental health help-seeking in the undergraduate engineering student population.

Wilson, S., & Hammer, J., & Miller, M., & Wright, C., & Hargis, L., & Usher, E. (2022, August), Identifying mental health related help-seeking beliefs in undergraduate engineers Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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