Investigating mental health distress and help-seeking perceptions in first-year engineering students

Sarah A. Wilson, Katie Wilder, Whitney C. Blackburn-Lynch, Joseph H. Hammer, Daniel A. Dailey

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

Abstract

Distressed engineering students are significantly less likely to seek professional help for a mental health concern when compared to their non-engineering peers. This represents a treatment gap, making engineering students at risk for escalation of symptoms to more significant and potentially chronic mental illness. To better understand the causes of this treatment gap, this study was designed to look at first-year engineering students' perceptions of seeking help for a mental health concern. Self-report survey data was collected from 440 first-year engineering students during the first month of the Fall 2021 semester, including psychometrically sound measures of mental health help-seeking attitudes, perceived norms, personal agency, and intention developed in accordance with the Integrated Behavioral Model. Results show 12% of students self-report symptoms of moderate or higher depression and 14% moderate or higher anxiety. While these statistics are lower than the national averages for college students, breakdowns by gender showed that female students showed a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression compared to the corresponding national average. In general, students had positive attitudes, control, and self-efficacy related to seeking help for a mental health concern. Mean scores for help-seeking intention and perceived norms were lower, with 50% of distressed students indicating low intention to seek professional help if in distress. Results from this study provide insight into the key mental health help-seeking perceptions that could influence help-seeking intention in first-year engineering students. This could aid in identifying targets for interventions aimed at improving help-seeking within this student population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
A grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF Award 2024394) supported this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2022.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering (all)

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