Asee peer logo

Relationship Between Mental Health Distress and Help-Seeking Behaviors Among Engineering Students

Download Paper |

Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Education Culture: Mental Health, Inclusion, and the Soul of Our Community

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

20

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37657

Download Count

58

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Lucy Elizabeth Hargis University of Kentucky

visit author page

Lucy Hargis is a senior psychology major at the University of Kentucky. She is a research assistant in the P20 Motivation and Learning Lab, which conducts research related to the psychological aspects of teaching and learning.

visit author page

biography

Courtney Janaye Wright University of Kentucky

visit author page

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.

visit author page

biography

Ellen L. Usher University of Kentucky

visit author page

Ellen L. Usher is an professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Kentucky. She received her Ph.D. in educational studies from Emory University in 2007. Her research has focused on the sources and effects of personal efficacy beliefs. She is the director of the P20 Motivation and Learning Lab.

visit author page

biography

Joseph H. Hammer University of Kentucky

visit author page

Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology

visit author page

biography

Sarah A. Wilson University of Kentucky

visit author page

Sarah Wilson is a lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Kentucky. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Rowan University in New Jersey before attending graduate school for her PhD at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. Her research interests include engineering communication, process safety, and undergraduate student mental health. Recently, she was awarded an NSF RIEF grant to student mental health-related help-seeking in undergraduate engineering students. She is completing this project in collaboration with faculty members from educational and counseling psychology. With this work, they aim to better understand the help-seeking beliefs of undergraduate engineering students and develop interventions to improve mental health-related help-seeking. Other research interests include engineering communication and integration of process safety into a unit operations course.

visit author page

biography

Melanie E. Miller University of Kentucky

visit author page

Melanie Miller, M.S., (She/her/hers) is a Counseling Psychology Ph.D. student at the University of Kentucky.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Much research has focused on investigating mental health concerns among undergraduate students. However, considerably less attention has been placed on the mental health concerns and help-seeking behaviors of engineering majors. Some research has shown that in academic domains with high levels of competition, such as engineering, students’ mental health is a major source of concern (Posselt & Lipson, 2016). High rates of mental health distress among engineering students at one specific university led some researchers to call for an expansion of mental health research in engineering programs elsewhere (Danowitz & Beddoes, 2018). One possibility is that students experiencing mental health distress are not seeking help as often as their peers in other disciplines. Indeed, some researchers have suggested that students’ intentions and behaviors related to seeking help from mental health professionals might vary for a variety of reasons.

The aims of the proposed study are to describe factors related to engineering students’ mental health (i.e., stress, anxiety, depression, suicidality) and to examine their relationship with students’ attitudes about seeking help from a mental health professional. Male and female students have shown different levels of mental health distress and help-seeking behaviors (Fischer et al., 2016; Van Droogenbroeck et al., 2013). Therefore, this study will also examine possible gender differences in students’ mental health distress and attitudes about help-seeking. Guiding research questions are: To what extent do engineering students report mental health concerns (i.e., depression, anxiety, distress, and suicidality)? What are engineering students’ beliefs and attitudes about seeking help from a mental health professional? Do these differ by gender? How are mental health challenges related to students’ help-seeking attitudes?

Secondary data collected through the nationally representative Healthy Minds Study (HMS; Eisenberg et al., 2019) will be used for the study. The dataset includes survey responses from 6,567 undergraduate engineering students from 79 institutions in the U.S. who participated in the study between 2018 and 2019. Depression was measured using 9 items from the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Anxiety was measured using 7 items from the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale (GAD-7). Distress and suicidality were measured using items from the emotional resilience, mental health status, and issues affecting academic performance sections of the HMS. Help-seeking attitudes were measured using items assessing intentions to seek help if experiencing distress, service utilization, knowledge of resources, awareness of negative stigma about help-seeking, beliefs about treatment efficacy, perceived need, and perceived barriers to seeking help. Descriptive statistics will be used to investigate all variables. Mean difference tests will be used to examine gender differences in students’ symptoms and help-seeking attitudes. Correlational analyses will be used to investigate the relationship between students’ mental health distress and help-seeking attitudes and intentions. The results of this work will help to inform engineering education at postsecondary institutions. Faculty, administrators, and university mental health service providers can gain valuable insights about the unique needs of engineering students and develop targeted support services to support engineering students’ mental health and academic success.

Hargis, L. E., & Wright, C. J., & Usher, E. L., & Hammer, J. H., & Wilson, S. A., & Miller, M. E. (2021, July), Relationship Between Mental Health Distress and Help-Seeking Behaviors Among Engineering Students Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37657

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015