Mental health research focuses on first year students


Bercham Kamber

Source: UI Counseling Center

By Samantha Boyle, Staff Writer

A study on the mental health of first-year students and effects of school on stress, suicide and self-harm is being conducted by a group of University professors. This is the first time the University has conducted a study like this.

“The data we collect from this study will lead to a better understanding of the self-harm and suicide ideation among first-year students,” said study research assistant Chandana Vuyyuru.

Vuyyuru said she hopes there will be around 50 to 100 participants from Allen Hall and Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall in the study, with fall 2018 as their projected window to publish.  

“We expanded our recruitment efforts to Allen Hall to increase the diversity and size of the recruitment pool,” said co-principal investigator Hillary Klonoff-Cohen.

The data collected will lead to a better overall understanding of self-harm and suicide for first year students, Vuyyuru said.

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    “Now, in a time like this, when everyone’s changing and going to college, probably as a first-year student, there’s a lot of things that can change and can affect your mental health pretty easily,” said Joseph Kreiling, LAR resident and freshman in LAS.

    Vuyyuru said the results of the study will be used to possibly create interventions on campus, which Klonoff-Cohen said is the second and most important part of the study. She said the interventions would include ways to improve the quality of life of residents and introduce positive coping strategies.

    “National data on self-harm behaviors on campuses is seriously lacking,” Klonoff-Cohen said. “It is important to understand and intervene on self-injurious behaviors because they can evolve into suicidal thoughts and attempts.”

    Kreiling said it is important to be aware of one’s own mental health and other people’s as well. Kreiling said he is not currently involved with the survey but would consider it.

    “(Mental health) is something that’s swept under the rug a lot in society,” he said.

    Vuyyuru said the study will also take into account the different ways students deal with stress.

    “We are interested in learning more about students who deal with stress in healthy ways as well as students who have more difficulty coping with stress,” Vuyyuru said.

    Klonoff-Cohen said incoming students especially may have a hard time adapting, due to the new environment, which could possibly lead to mental health issues.

    She said there are over 1,000 suicides on campuses every year. According to the National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression, 1 in 12 college students plan a suicide.

    The national data also said “suicide is the second-leading cause of death” for ages 20 to 24.

    “We intend to figure out effective ways to prevent these mental health problems and provide students with positive alternatives,” Klonoff-Cohen said.

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