In the wake of the pandemic, nearly half of Middle Tennessee State University students reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression, according to results from the national Healthy Minds Study.
MTSU officials are asking students to participate in the confidential study once again beginning Feb. 12, when links go out to MT emails for the web-based survey that examines mental health, service utilization and related issues among the student body.
“Hopefully we get some insight from students on the current state of mental health, their perception of what we have to offer and what they feel they might benefit from having,” said Lisa Schrader, distance learning lecturer in the MTSU Department of Health and Human Performance.
Over 1,900 MTSU students completed the survey in 2021. Based on screening questions answered by students, 41% were experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and 48% reported needing help for emotional and mental health issues in the previous year — sad, blue, anxious and nervous.
A statistic from the survey that worried Schrader the most was the 16% who reported thoughts of suicide.
“What stood out was the incredibly sharp decline in mental health indicators of our students,” Schrader said. “We are seeing a three-fold increase in the percentage of students who have considered suicide within the last year.”
Schrader said needs for mental health support have increased as the world continues grappling with the pandemic’s impact and students have voiced concerns for themselves as well as their peers. So MTSU officials decided additional assessments were needed.
“I think one of the challenges faced at the university for years is how to best market programs and services in a way students are aware of them and how to access them,” Schrader said. “It’s so important for students to participate in the survey because it’s an opportunity for them to tell us what they feel is important so we’re not guessing what they want and what they need, and how we can help.”
‘We value their opinion’
The Healthy Minds Survey takes about 30 minutes to complete, and the number of questions depends on responses to certain sections. Answers are completely confidential and no personal identifying information is required.
“We want them to know we value their opinion, but their unique responses are not tied to them personally,” Schrader said.
Students who participate in the survey will be entered to win one of two $500 gift cards and one of 10 $100 gift cards as well as Apple watches, AirPods and MTSU swag.
Funding for the survey is provided by the Tennessee Coalition for Healthy & Safe Campus Community. MTSU officials plan to participate in the survey on a three-year cycle, Schrader said.
“These are huge, complex topics and there’s a lot more involved in institutional programs and policies,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is support our students and employees.”
About the survey
The survey is administered by the Healthy Minds Network, a research organization dedicated to improving the mental and emotional well-being of young people through innovative, multidisciplinary scholarship.
The network spans the country, with principal investigators at the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Boston University.
For 15 years, the network has administered the Healthy Minds Study and collected over 740,000 responses from students at more than 530 colleges and universities. The network’s research efforts have expanded into other facets of mental health in educational settings, including the role and health of faculty and staff.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)