Facilitating Preventative Mental Health Interventions for College Students: Institutional and Individual Strategies

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The college student experience, although often exciting, empowering, and invigorating, can also be stressful, anxiety producing, and lonely (e.g., Kohn and Frazer, 1986; Miller and Rice, 1993). Many colleges and universities have an infrastructure in place to assist students who experience mental health problems, including counseling centers and personnel who provide mental health services and make referrals for students to specialized mental health providers (e.g., psychiatrists) (Stone and Archer, 1990; Tyrrell, 1997). Unfortunately, most mental health services that are offered on college campuses seem treatment-oriented in nature; they are deliberately created to assist students who have already developed at least some level of psychological dysfunction. We propose that preventative interventions can be developed on college campuses to help individuals develop proactive behaviors and coping strategies to avoid mental health problems, and that these interventions can be focused at either the individual level, by instructing students on ways to develop strong study and time management skills, establish social supports, and maximize their academic success, or at the institutional level, by offering structural resources to help facilitate student success and mental wellness. The purpose of this chapter will be to discuss prevalent mental health problems among college students and the causes and consequences of these problems, as well as to outline some of these individual- and institutional-level preventative mental health interventions. We show the benefits of such preventative approaches relative to standard treatment-oriented approaches, and to encourage administrators and faculty to promote psychological wellness rather than simply treat fully manifested psychopathology.

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