What do we know about university students?
We already know from previous research in this area that when people avoid seeking help for stress and depressive symptoms, symptoms can become worse.
Although a range of factors increases an individual’s vulnerability to depression, such as genetic predisposition, personality factors, and childhood trauma (Karaffa & Hancock, 2019; Rotenstein et al., 2016), stress research has consistently found that chronic stress (de Alencar Fontes et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2015) and daily stress exposure (Brose, Wichers, & Kuppens, 2017) are positively related to depressive symptoms.
Research has also found that perceived stress associated with education-related stressors predict depressive symptoms in university students (Killinger et al., 2017; Newcomb-Anjo, Villemaire-Krajden, Takefman, & Barker, 2017).
Research has found that university students, in general, are reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.
Australian research has found that only 39% of university students with high levels of psychological distress had sought professional help (Stallman & Shochet, 2009), and a study of 1,139 veterinary, medical, and dentistry students at a university in England found that only 21% of students with severe depressive symptoms had accessed professional help (Knipe et al., 2018). Untreated mental health concerns can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms, and have significant consequences for students, including reduced university attendance and academic performance, a heightened risk of dropping out, relationship difficulties and physical health problems (Browne et al., 2017; Larcombe et al., 2016; McArthur, Andrews, Brand, & Hazel, 2017). A study of 647 Australian law students found that perceived stress related to academic demands predicted depressive symptoms in students (Bergin & Pakenham, 2015).
This is despite the fact that most universities in Australia offer free counselling, disability support, and medical services to students (Rickwood et al., 2016), and research consistently demonstrates the efficacy of psychological interventions in reducing stress (Yusufov, Nicoloro-SantaBarbara, Grey, Moyer, & Lobel, 2019) and depression (Huang, Tigatu, Smail-Crevier, Zhang, & Wang, 2018) among university students.