Evaluating Help-Seeking Behavior among At-Risk College Students Using the Interactive Screening Program, 2012-2016 Open Access
Mortali, Maggie (2016)
Background: Suicide is a serious public health problem and a leading cause of death among college and university students.Depression and substance use disorders remain the most significant risk factors for suicide, although many at-risk students are often the least likely to seek mental health services.In an ongoing effort to address this problem, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) developed and implemented the Interactive Screening Program (ISP) at colleges and universities nationwide.
Methods: This study utilized data from the ISP at Emory University's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) from 2012 to 2016. Chi-square distribution tests were used to determine differences in level of risk between students who independently accessed the ISP website (self-initiated responders) and students who were directed to the ISP website via email invitation (roll-out responders). Chi-square distribution tests were used to determine differences between self-initiated responders and roll-out responders for each point of program engagement: reviewing the counselor's response; exchanging dialogue messages with the counselor, and; requesting an appointment to meet with the counselor in person.
Results: A total of 1,059 students completed the screening questionnaire; 1,058 (99.9%) were designated as high or moderate risk. Among those designated at high or moderate risk, only 4.8% were getting any type of counseling or therapy. Of the 1,059 participants, 192 (18.1%) were roll-out responders and 867 (81.9%) were self-initiated. The rate of current suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors was significantly higher among the self-initiated group (44.5%) versus the roll-out group (28.1%). The rate of program engagement was high for both groups.
Conclusions: The significant difference in level of risk between students who independently accessed the ISP website and students who were directed to the ISP website via email invitation provides considerable evidence that students in distress are looking for help, and that they are looking for help online. The Interactive Screening Program identified a significant number of distressed students who were not currently utilizing mental health services. This online method of outreach proved effective in engaging at-risk students and connecting them to mental health services.
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