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Mental Health in College Populations: A Multidisciplinary Review of What Works, Evidence Gaps, and Paths Forward

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Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research


The mental health of students has become one of the top concerns in higher education. The number of students reporting distress and seeking services has dramatically increased, and colleges and universities are struggling to address these challenges. A rich and growing body of research documents the scope of the problem and potential interventions to address it, but this literature is scattered across a variety of academic fields. This chapter aims to bring coherence to this large volume of information through a detailed review of programs, services, practices, and policies that influence student mental health. The review is organized around a socioecological framework, considering interventions at the individual, interpersonal, community, institutional, and public policy levels. It highlights strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the evidence. The chapter concludes with recommendations for enhancing how research and data can inform practice moving forward. A more evidence-informed approach is needed to address the growing challenges of student mental health in higher education.

Nicholas A. Bowman was the Associate Editor for this chapter.

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    Identified by the mentee, not assigned

  2. 2.

    GKTs are similar in many ways to bystander interventions, a term applied in prevention efforts involving mental health and sexual assault, substance abuse, discrimination, and other contexts. Bystander interventions focus on recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and training individuals to respond in a way that could positively influence the outcome. The book chapter “The Role of Active Bystander Training Within a Comprehensive Prevention Framework” provides an overview of bystander interventions in college settings (Jacobsen, 2018).