Student Mental Health - Depression and Anxiety

Research has incontestably reported a rise in mental illness in the student population as well as an above-population average of prevalence: 1 in 3 opposed to the 1 in 4 of the general population [1], some studies even indicate a 50% prevalence of a mental health issue during enrollment at a university [2]. Mental health issues are closely tied to the 50% university drop-out rate [3] as well as a substantial decline in academic performance of up to .3 GPA scores [2]. 

The leading mental illness in the student population are:

  1. Depression [4]
  2. Anxiety [5]
  3. Sleep difficulties [6]
  4. Substance abuse (mostly alcohol) [7]
  5. Risky sexual activity [8]

Low-income students are especially vulnerable, making financial management skills also a part of mental health care [4]. 

Unfortunately, only roughly 16% of those in need of mental health care have access and seek out treatment [9], making the curation as well as easy access to care solutions a top priority for universities, families and students alike. Prevention and early intervention tools should be heavily distributed and marketed since prevention can lower mental illness incidents up to 22% [10], leading to less suffering, fewer university drop-outs and better academic performance that will have a huge life on later positioning in the workforce. 

Clinical psychologist and mobile mental health app developer Silja Litvin curated a list of applications designed to offer a comprehensive mobile self-help package fitting the specific needs of students. The list was designed to fit the above needs and was chosen by impact (effect size of clinical trial), trustworthiness determined by rigorous assessment undergone by Health App Assessment Bodies like ORCHA, Psyberguide, and the NHS App Library, age appropriateness, and pricing. Together, these mobile tools are meant to offer a holistic approach to mental well-being and mental health care. 

  1. Prevention, early intervention: eQuoo. eQuoo, the evidence-based Emotional Fitness Game, with a top ORCHA Score, teaches psychological skills, such as emotional bids, generalization, and reciprocity – which are needed to process emotional and mental stress – through psychoeducation, storytelling, and gamification. It is a 5-week course, with 2 skills per level, where the player goes on to implement the skills in the safe yet stimulating environment of a choose-your-own-adventure game. The game builds resilience, personal development, interpersonal relationship skills and lowers anxiety. 
  1. Health lifestyle/exercise: Sidekick. Sidekick is a social health game. It is designed to motivate and engage people towards a healthy lifestyle. Sidekick allows people to communicate, collaborate and compete with friends and colleagues while improving their lifestyle.
  2. Depression: IESO. Ieso Digital Health delivers CBT over the internet, meaning you can see your therapist from wherever you choose. Online CBT is delivered securely through our online therapy platform. At the time of your appointment, you simply log in and speak to your therapist by typing back and forth. Typed conversation removes the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation, and can allow you to express your true, inner feelings. Sessions usually take place once a week and last up to 60 minutes.
  3. Anxiety: IESO
  4. Sleep Difficulties: Sleepio.Sleepio is an online sleep improvement program, clinically proven to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep through the night, and give you more energy during the day. The program is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You will learn cognitive techniques to help tackle the racing mind and behavioral strategies to help reset sleeping patterns naturally, without relying on sleeping pills. 
  5. Alcohol abuse: Drinkaware. Reducing your alcohol intake has a number of feel-good benefits. Redesigned and refreshed our easy-to-use app can help you understand the impact of your drinking, and provide support to help you to change your habits for the better. Calculate units and calories, review your drinking patterns over time, set your own goals and get support at the times and places where you need it the most. If you’re trying to make a change for the better, it’s important to acknowledge when you’re doing a good job. The Drinkaware app provides impartial, non-judgmental support and encouragement to help you keep track of your journey with a range of useful features.
  6. Risky sexual activity: My Sex Doctor Lite. My Sex Doctor offers tons of useful information about sex and sexuality. My Sex Doctor gives advice on puberty and body changes, on flirting and relationships, on the various sexual acts and on minimizing the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. The app is super-easy to use, and not needing an Internet connection can be accessed anytime and anyplace in total privacy.

Sources: 

  1. Bruffaerts et al (2018). Mental health problems in college freshmen: Prevalence and academic functioning. Journal of Affective Disorders. Volume 225, Pages 97-103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.044
  2. Zivin et al (2009). Persistence of mental health problems and needs in a college student population. Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 117, Issue 3, October 2009, Pages 180-185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2009.01.001
  3. Luca, S., Franklin, C., Yueqi, Y., Johnson, S., & Brownson, C. (2016). The Relationship Between Suicide Ideation, Behavioral Health, and College Academic Performance. Community Mental Health Journal, 52(5), 534-540. 
  4. Eisenberg, D. , Gollust, S. E., Golberstein, E. and Hefner, J. L. (2007), Prevalence and Correlates of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality Among University Students. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77: 534-542. doi:10.1037/0002-9432.77.4.534
  5. Holmes, A., & Silvestri, R. (2016). Rates of Mental Illness and Associated Academic Impacts in Ontario’s College Students. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 31(1), 27-46.
  6. Lund, H., Reider, B., Whiting, A., & Prichard, J. (2010). Sleep Patterns and Predictors of Disturbed Sleep in a Large Population of College Students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(2), 124-132.
  7. Carvalho, .K., Sant’Anna, .M., Coates, .V., & Omar, .H. (2008). Medical students: Abuse of psychoactive substances and sexuality aspects. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 20(3),
  8. Moure-Rodríguez, L., Caamaño-Isorna, F., Doallo, S., Lopez-Caneda, E., Juan-Salvadores, P., Rodríguez Holguín, S., & Cadaveira, F. (2015). P-27HEAVY EPISODIC DRINKING AND UNSAFE SEX IN COLLEGE STUDENTS. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 50(suppl_1), i51-i52.
  9. Auerbach, R., Alonso, J., Axinn, W., Cuijpers, P., Ebert, D., Green, J., . . . Bruffaerts, R. (2016). Mental disorders among college students in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Psychological Medicine, 46(14), 2955-2970. doi:10.1017/S0033291716001665

Preventing the Onset of Depressive Disorders: A Meta-Analytic Review of Psychological Interventions. Pim Cuijpers, Ph.D., Annemieke van Straten, Ph.D., Filip Smit, Ph.D., Cathrine Mihalopoulos, B.B.Sc.(Hons), and Aartjan Beekman, M.D., Ph.D. American Journal of Psychiatry 2008 165:10, 1272-1280

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