Variations in psychological disorders, suicidality, and help-seeking behaviour among college students from different academic disciplines

Margaret McLafferty, Natasha Brown, John Brady, Jonathon McLaughlin, Rachel McHugh, Caoimhe Ward, Louise McBride, Anthony J. Bjourson, Siobhan M. O’Neill, Colum P. Walsh, Elaine K. Murray, Supat Chupradit (Editor)

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Abstract

Background: Elevated levels of suicidality, ADHD, mental ill-health and substance disorders are reported among college students globally, yet few receive treatment. Some faculties and courses appear to have more at-risk students than others. The current study aimed to determine if students commencing college in different academic disciplines were at a heightened risk for psychopathology, substance use disorders and suicidal behaviour, and examined variations in help-seeking behaviour. Materials and methods: The study utilised data collected from 1,829 first-year undergraduate students as part of the Student Psychological Intervention Trial (SPIT) which commenced in September 2019 across four Ulster University campuses in Northern Ireland and an Institute of Technology, in the North-West of Ireland. The SPIT study is part of the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS) which uses the WMH-CIDI to identify 12-month and lifetime disorders. Results: Students from Life and Health Sciences reported the lowest rates of a range of psychological problems in the year prior to commencing college, while participants studying Arts and Humanities displayed the highest levels (e.g. depression 20.6%; social anxiety 38.8%). However, within faculty variations were found. For example, psychology students reported high rates, while nursing students reported low rates. Variations in help seeking behaviour were also revealed, with male students less likely to seek help. Conclusions: Detecting specific cohorts at risk of psychological disorders and suicidality is challenging. This study revealed that some academic disciplines have more vulnerable students than others, with many reluctant to seek help for their problems. It is important for educators to be aware of such issues and for colleges to provide information and support to students at risk. Tailored interventions and prevention strategies may be beneficial to address the needs of students from different disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0279618
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding information:
This study was funded by the Clinical Health Intervention Trials in Ireland Network (CHITIN). CHITIN has received €10.6m (or million) funding from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) with match funding from the Departments of Health in NI and ROI. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the Clinical Health Intervention Trials in Ireland Network (CHITIN). CHITIN has received €10.6m (or million) funding from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) with match funding from the Departments of Health in NI and ROI. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We thank the Northern Ireland Centre for Stratified Medicine, School of Psychology staff and students, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology staff for assistance with the recruitment of students. Special thanks to the Students Union, Student Wellbeing and Student Administration Services at Ulster University and Letterkenny Institute of Technology for their assistance in this study. We would also like to thank Dr. Randy Auerbach and his team at Harvard University for their assistance in data management and analysis. Finally, we would like to thank the undergraduate students of Ulster University and Letterkenny Institute of Technology for taking part in the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 McLafferty et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Copyright: © 2022 McLafferty et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Keywords

  • Mental health and psychiatry
  • Suicide
  • Clinical psychology
  • Colleges
  • Behavior
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Mental health therapies
  • Help-Seeking Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Universities
  • Mental Disorders - epidemiology - therapy - psychology
  • Students - psychology
  • Mental Disorders/epidemiology
  • Students/psychology

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