Digital interventions to address mental health needs in colleges: Perspectives of student stakeholders

Naira Topooco, Lauren A. Fowler, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Bianca DePietro, Melissa M. Vázquez, Marie Laure Firebaugh, Peter Ceglarek, Grace Monterubio, Michelle G. Newman, Daniel Eisenberg, Denise E. Wilfley, C. Barr Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The need for clinical services in U.S. colleges exceeds the supply. Digital Mental health Interventions (DMHIs) are a potential solution, but successful implementation depends on stakeholder acceptance. This study investigated the relevance of DMHIs from students' perspectives. Methods: In 2020–2021, an online cross-sectional survey using mixed methods was conducted with 479 students at 23 colleges and universities. Respondents reported views and use of standard mental health services and DMHIs and rated the priority of various DMHIs to be offered through campus services. Qualitative data included open-ended responses. Findings: Among respondents, 91% reported having experienced mental health problems, of which 91% reported barriers to receiving mental health services. Students highlighted therapy and counseling as desired and saw flexible access to services as important. With respect to DMHIs, respondents had the most experience with physical health apps (46%), mental health questionnaires (41%), and mental well-being apps (39%). Most were unaware of or had not used apps or self-help programs for mental health problems. Students were most likely to report the following DMHIs as high priorities: a crisis text line (76%), telehealth (66%), websites for connecting to services (62%), and text/messaging with counselors (62%). They considered a self-help program with coach support to be convenient but some also perceived such services to be possibly less effective than in-person therapy. Conclusions: Students welcome DMHIs on campus and indicate preference for mental health services that include human support. The findings, with particular focus on characteristics of the DMHIs prioritized, and students' awareness and perceptions of scalable DMHIs emphasized by policymakers, should inform schools looking to implement DMHIs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100528
JournalInternet Interventions
Volume28
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

  • College mental health
  • Patient perceptions
  • Self-help
  • Service delivery
  • Stakeholders
  • Stepped care

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