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Mental health screenings can help students identify symptoms of mental illness and increase visibility of campus resources.

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One of the growing concerns among higher education persistence and retention is students’ mental health and wellness and how institutions can support healthy living. Nationally, more young adults are showing signs of mental distress and illness, which can be compounded by academic stress, hurting students and their successes.

To get ahead of student crises and connect learners to resources, many colleges and universities offer learners access to a screening test to identify signs of anxiety, depression, eating disorders or other concerns. The short questionnaires help students identify their symptoms of mental illness and guide on-campus service providers in referring them to care.

By the numbers: Recent surveys and data on student health and wellness show the state of college students’ mental health.

Getting a pulse on a college’s student population and their mental health can be a challenge for institutional leaders because not all students in need utilize campus resources. A Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse found 63 percent of students have not used any of their institution’s mental health resources.

Mental health screening events can help students access care and destigmatize negative perceptions around people who utilize mental health care.

How it works: One of the benefits of mental health screenings is that they are resource-light. Students can participate in a mental health screening test independently at the counseling center or as part of a larger campus-wide initiative to encourage screenings.

Many colleges offer depression screening events during the fall, in honor of National Depression Screening Day. Others, including Marywood University in Pennsylvania, screen for generalized anxiety or eating disorders during events.

During a mental health screening, participants answer questions about their mood, anxiety, appetite, sleep and previous traumatic experiences. Some screening tests look for general types of common disorders, whereas others look for more specific symptoms.

After the screening, participants have the opportunity to review their results with a clinician and identify next steps, such as referrals. Screening tests cannot diagnosis a mental illness but based on the results, a clinician may recommend a more comprehensive evaluation.

Some colleges also offer online screening tools. Upon completion, students can request a personalized response from a counseling clinician, exchange messages and learn about services and recommendations.

Take a Screening Test

For those interested in completing a mental health screening, Mental Health America offers free online tests for anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders, among other topics.

A community impact: Boston University hosts regular mental health screening opportunities for students during Mental Illness Awareness Week. In fall 2020, 5,840 community members participated, 25 percent of whom screened positive for depression and 83 percent for anxiety.

A screening can also be one way to introduce students to other resources and supports. At the University of Virginia, a mental health screening day included yoga, therapy dogs and outdoor adventure tabling, promoting holistic well-being, according to The Cavalier Daily, the university’s student paper.

On its online screening site, Boise State University in Idaho offers FAQs to help students understand their screening score, learn self-care practices and ways to find community, among other topics.

Do you have a wellness tip that might help others encourage student success? Tell us about it.

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