Lecture – Addressing College Student Mental Health, Race, and Identity

Available with English captions.

Presented by Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, PhD, McLean Hospital – McLean Forum lecture

The traditional college years of 18 and 24 coincide with the peak period of onset for major psychiatric illnesses, including major depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia. Research shows that stress is a robust predictor of these illnesses.

According to Pinder-Amaker, these two factors create “a perfect storm of opportunity for the onset of psychological distress and mental illness in college students.”

Watch now to learn more about:

  • Trends and issues in college mental health
  • How factors, such as race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, can impact the mental health of college-age individuals
  • A model developed to respond to college mental health challenges

Drawing on recent research, she reports that a third of all first-year students around the world screen positive for one of six major psychiatric illnesses within their first 12 months on campus. Studies, she says, also show a high rate of students who take prescribed psychiatric medications and visit college counseling and psychological services.

This elevated need for services puts pressure on university health services, as well as on personal physicians and families. It also points to the need for effective models for diagnosing and treating college students with mental health conditions.

During this talk, Pinder-Amaker takes a detailed look at how race, nationality, sexual orientation, and other factors can impact college student mental health. She explains how these factors can contribute to the intense internal and external pressures that college students face.

Building off this discussion, Pinder-Amaker describes a model that she and her colleagues have developed to help colleges better care for their students. Central to this model is an understanding of characteristics such as age, disability, religion, economic status, national origin, and gender expression. Considering each student’s social and cultural identity, she states, gives clinicians, counselors, and administrators a framework to help them address sensitive and challenging topics around mental health.

According to Pinder-Amaker, this model has been successful in helping educational institutions address college-age mental health. She calls on all mental health and higher education professionals to consider social and cultural factors in creating their approaches to mental health.