Attending college is not just fun and games as a significant number of students develop mental health problems.
However, proactive intervention can help to ward off or diminish the psychological issues that come with higher education.
A team of psychologists from Loyola University Chicago systematically reviewed universal interventions involving over 10,000 students enrolled in two- and four-year colleges and universities and graduate programs.
Their findings are published in the journal Prevention Science.
Researchers indicated that universal prevention interventions — that is, programs targeting general students, not just students who are at risk for or who have already developed problems — were effective in significantly reducing outcomes related to stress, anxiety, and depression.
The programs also helped in enhancing not only students’ social-emotional skills, self-perceptions, and interpersonal relationships, but also their academic adjustment. However, programs differ in their effectiveness.
Apparently, practicing skills is a better approach than lecturing students on what they should do to relieve stress and anxiety.
Researchers discovered programs that included supervised practice of targeted skills significantly outperformed didactically oriented or psychoeducational programs, as well as skills-based programs without supervised practice.
These findings have important implications because stress, anxiety, and depression are among the most common adjustment problems experienced by higher education students, and these problems have been rising on college campus.
Furthermore, these problems can interfere with students’ academic performance and retention. On the other hand, developing psychosocial assets — including adaptive social and emotional skills, positive self-perceptions, and supportive interpersonal relationships — can help a student self-manage mental health and improve academic performance and retention.
The authors discuss the value of skill-training programs with a preventive mental health focus and their application within higher educational settings. They conclude that effective programs to prevent emotional distress and promote psychosocial assets warrant more widespread use.