There is nothing more important in higher education than the health, safety, and well-being of students, staff, and faculty. In order to provide higher education institutions with insight into students’ mental health and well-being, Vector Solutions has aggregated and anonymized thousands of student survey responses and is providing a view into the data below. By providing data on this critical topic, our hope is to support higher education leaders in making informed decisions about how best to support the mental health and well-being of their students.
The data included here was collected between June 2021 and May 2022 and is based on nearly 140,000 student responses to pre-course and post-course surveys associated with the Vector course on Mental Health and Well-Being for Students. Among the findings:
Nearly half - 45% - of responding students reported needing help for emotional or mental health problems in the last 12 months and 57% reported currently needing help for these same issues.
Promisingly, 97% of respondents think mental health is important and 36% say they want to learn more about mental health, and how to help themselves and others.
Higher education institutions are in a prime position to support these students by helping them learn how to build resiliency and self-care and support skills. One way to do this is by increasing students mental well-being knowledge and skills – for instance, by providing information about how to recognize if they or a classmate need help, actions they can take when experiencing distress, and when to seek professional support. Vector course data demonstrate learners' increase in knowledge, skills, and confidence in caring for themselves and helping others.
For example, after taking our course, there was a relative increase of 40% in students who reported knowing where to go on campus if they needed professional help; and a relative increase of 22% in students who expressed confidence in recognizing when someone is in emotional or mental distress.
The survey found that although more than half of students (57%) recognized they needed support for their mental health, only 11% were getting support through counseling or therapy. Students reported that barriers exist at all levels – personal barriers, institutional barriers, and others. This makes it even more critical for students to have access to different ways of building the knowledge and skills needed for positive outcomes. Among the reasons students cited for not getting professional help are because they preferred to deal with issues on their own or with support from family and friends, they don’t have enough time, they think it’s too expensive, or they don’t know where to go to get help.
Institutions must work to meet these challenges and assist students in overcoming barriers to receiving support.
Vector survey results back up recent studies that LGBTQIA+ students struggle significantly more with their mental health than the general student population. While 45% of all students reported struggling with mental health over the last 12 months, and 57% reported currently needing help for emotional or mental health issues, these percentages increased meaningfully for the non-heterosexual and non-cisgendered students by about 10 percentage points to 56%.
Institutions can support these more vulnerable young people by implementing policies and programs that create a welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ students and identifying resources tailored to their needs.
Our survey found:
Students can feel helpless and discouraged when they want to help but lack the skills to take action. Colleges and universities increase student confidence in intervening by helping students build the skills they need to support their peers.
Our survey results demonstrate that digital education about mental health helps reduce the stigma and increases the likelihood that students will seek help. Data shows that students value training on how to focus on self-care, build resiliency, and support others. When they receive training, they report increased confidence in intervening and making time for their own mental health. In addition, following training, students report greater confidence that their peers will support them -Peer support is especially meaningful because college students often act based on s what they believe their peers will support.
Some of the positive benefits reported by students after taking Vector’s Mental Health and Well-Being course include a relative increase of:
Additionally, the percentage of students who said they would intervene if they noticed a peer experiencing emotional distress or thoughts of suicide was high even before training at 85%, but the training helped improve that already strong number by an additional three percentage points to 88%– which increases student safety and possibly saves lives.
Students often turn to each other for support. In fact, 61% of students surveyed reported they would turn to a friend if they were experiencing serious emotional distress, Online training better prepares students to help each other through mental health challenges. Promoting mental health and well-being is a core element of comprehensive health, well-being, and safety efforts on college campuses. Students make a big impact in creating a supportive campus culture when they recognize their own or others need help, how to help themselves or support others, and where to go when professional intervention is needed. By providing resources and training for both staff and students, colleges and universities proactively create safe campuses where students will thrive.
About the data: The above Mental Health and Well-Being data is from June 2021 through May 2022, and included responses from 139,132 students. Of those, 65.5% identified as White, 75.8% identified as heterosexual or straight, 36.7% identified as men, and 59.3% identified as women.