Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Introduction: Mental illness and the associated stigma can be a major detractor from student wellness. Depression and anxiety, the most commonly diagnosed mental illness conditions for college students can negatively impact academic performance, social relationships, and may co-occur with substance use. College campuses, to meet the needs of students, need mental health treatment resources, health education, and community enrichment. Prevention and treatment programs should be acceptable to schools, engaging to students, and impactful to campus communities while also being affordable, available for dissemination, and appropriate for the diverse nature of college campuses. The current study evaluated a novel journalism curriculum designed to increase students’ ability to discuss mental illness, reduce the associated stigma, and promote treatment referrals. Methods: Break the Silence (BTS) included an 8-week workshop series, creation of a journalism piece (individually or in small groups) in any form (print, digital, audio), a student conducted campus survey, and a community forum to showcase the journalism pieces and foster discussion. We analyzed data from: 1) n=11 BTS participants surveyed before and after curriculum implementation and qualitatively interview at program end; 2) n=158 anonymous college students surveyed on mental health concerns and campus resources by the BTS participants; and 3) n=26 students and staff attending the community forum who completed anonymous surveys. The qualitative interviews were coded and analyzed using grounded theory. Results: Of the 158 students surveyed (51% M, 46% F, 3% other/declined), the majority reported experiencing some form of mental illness concern in their lives (60%), believed mental illness was a serious issue at their school (80%), and believed more services for mental health are needed on-campus (91%). With the 11 BTS participants (Age: M+/-SD =30+/-14, R:18-60 years; 54.5% female), five of six measures showed trends for improvement, one being statistically significant at p< .05. Interviewed participants cited skill development, sharing personal stories, and reaching an audience through the forum and journal as helpful aspects of BTS. Interviewed participants cited difficulties with scheduling, difficulty talking to strangers about mental illness, and lack of clear expectations as unhelpful aspects of BTS. The majority of forum attendees reported that they either agreed or strongly agreed that mental health was an important topic (85%), either agreed or strongly agreed that the forum was valuable to them (81%), stated they learned something from the forum (85%), and that more similar forums are needed (85%). Conclusions: The BTS novel journalism curriculum, designed to increase students’ ability to discuss mental health issues, addressed a need identified by students. Further research into the replication and dissemination of the curriculum in new settings is necessary.