Mental health, service utilization and academic outcomes

Latina college students experience significant stress and psychological distress in the college campus context. In fact, Latinas report higher rates of depression and anxiety compared to Latinos and their non-Latina counterparts. Latina college students have also been identified as the most at-risk student group for not receiving counseling/mental health services for their mental health problems. Given the negative consequences of untreated mental health problems, particularly on academic success, it is imperative that greater attention be paid to the mental health of Latina college students. Recent research has discovered that Latinas’ perceptions play an important role in their experience of mental health problems and whether or not they use mental health services. However, this work was limited in that it neither revealed exactly how Latinas perceive of mental health problems nor when they perceive that a mental health problem would warrant professional help. In addition, this work was completely void of examining the role of ethnic identity (e.g., Mexican, Mexican-American, Cuban, Puerto Rican) or acculturation level in reported mental health problems and mental health service use.

The purpose of the proposed study is to fill these gaps in the literature through conducting focus groups with Latina college students aimed at exploring their perceptions and experiences of mental health problems and mental health services and the role that identity and social context may play in these perceptions and experiences. This study is part of a larger mixed methods study aimed at developing a conceptual model of Latina college student mental health that can be used to inform the development and implementation of programs aimed at addressing the mental health needs, and possibly the college completion gap that exists in this at-risk and understudied population.

Sponsor: The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health