July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
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
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