Over the last few months I have been been doing a substantial amount of research in regards to mental health issues in the college population. As a college student myself, I have personally seen an increase in demand for mental health services as well as an increase in symptom severity in my peers. My observations have not only peaked my interest on the topic but have also created a sense of concern regarding what could be causing mental health statistics within this population to continue to incrementally grow. The overall purpose of the research portion of my senior project is to bring about mental health awareness, outline possible causes, consequences, discuss current campus services, and lastly, highlight interdisciplinary interventions that campuses should invest in to fix this ever-growing problem. For the applied portion of my project, I wanted to specifically target my own college, Plymouth State University, and collect interviews from professors and survey data from the students. By targeting my own campus, I have the hopes of uncovering and sharing data with my peers about the current state of our mental health services, receive professor and/or student feedback and knowledge, and ultimately determine if we have our own growing mental health crisis on campus. In addition to the survey and interviews I wanted to do some sort of hands-on work that wasn’t just interviews, initially, I was going to create a short, two-three minute video depicting the mental health crisis in some way. Although, I ran into some issues as I realized I wasn’t quite technologically inclined and it was going to take way too much time to put everything together. Therefore, instead, I decided to volunteer a day of my time to the Human Rights Campaign, which is an LGBTQ civil rights advocacy organization.
Human Rights Campaign Volunteering
The first step of my applied project was volunteering my time at the Human Rights Campaign booth at the Anime Boston Convention at the Hynes Convention Center on March 31st. This was quite a long day as me, and three other volunteers I recruited, left Plymouth early in the morning and didn’t get back until late at night. We volunteered for the entirety of the 2:30pm-8:00pm shift with the duties of sharing HRC resources, signing up new volunteers, and raising money for HRC’s work in protecting LGBTQ+ rights and supporting LGBTQ+ political candidates. It was an extremely busy day as over 22,000 people attend Anime Boston every year. Overall, the experience was incredible and I met a lot of amazing individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, along with their families and general supporters. This portion of my applied project only targeted one population within the overall college population that I am discussing in my research, in addition, I was working with more than just college aged individuals. Despite these factors it was still a beneficial portion to my capstone as a whole as I received the chance of working with an at-risk population and it gave me better insight into the fight surrounding LGBTQ+ equality. Overall, this volunteer work aligned with my research article because as stated, the LGBTQ community is an at-risk group for the development of mental health issues and is included in the individual and interpersonal causation of my research paper.
The survey I am conducting is completely anonymous and is specifically aimed at current, traditional, or recently graduated, Plymouth State students. To be more specific, Plymouth alumni can take the survey if they have graduated within the last five years as a traditional student. The reason for this is because my research has shown significantly increasing trends for self-reported mental health distress over the last decade, therefore, the population of college students that have graduated within this time span will have experienced or witnessed this growing mental health crisis. After all, in 2014, first-year college students reported the lowest emotional health in the last twenty-five years. Therefore, these 2014 first-year students are now about to graduate, and I am curious about statistics from the last decade that this population is in the middle of. The survey will include demographic information to understand the population better, and contain questions regarding mental health experience, causation factors, consequences/participation in risky behavior, and lastly, knowledge of campus services. The survey is expected to be completed and delivered to the student body by the end of the day on Wednesday, April 25th and will be open for approximately a week.
The second part of my applied project is a collection of interviews, possibly anonymous if requested, related to the increase in mental health issues within the college population. My first target for this collection is the counseling center on campus, this interview will be slightly different than the rest as it will be more focused on what services are available for students when they are experiencing some sort of distress. In addition, I am hoping to receive information regarding statistics if any are available, receive some insight on possible theories of causation, and develop a better understanding as to why students don’t always utilize services even when they are readily available. My other targets include professors and/or students knowledgeable on mental health issues, these interviews will be about fifteen-twenty minutes long with the hopes of receiving opinions on the “mental health crisis”, and once again, gain better understanding on causation, consequences, and opinions on the supports offered on campus. These interviews will be completed and uploaded within the next week as professors get back to me on availability.