Mental Health Surveys Give Insight Into Student Well-Being

Last spring, Georgia Tech’s Division of Campus Services and Division of Student Life conducted four surveys: three to evaluate student mental health and well-being, as well as an annual Campus Services Satisfaction Survey. This came after the President’s A Path Forward – Together Mental Health Action Team recommended that, among other things, the Institute implement more periodic student surveys on mental health.

The results are now compiled on Health Initiatives’ website and represent the first time that Tech has had data to compare against national benchmarks since 2011. The Campus Services Satisfaction Survey has included questions surrounding mental health since 2016, which allowed the 2018 results to be compared to previous campus-focused ones.

“Administering the surveys allowed us to benchmark ourselves against national data, as well as provide a baseline with which to measure progress on campus initiatives,” said Carla Bradley, director of the Counseling Center. “We took a comprehensive and collaborative approach to data gathering as a means of gaining a bird’s eye view of campus health and well-being.” Of the 22,000 students who were surveyed, 4,910 participated, for a response rate of 22.3%.

Survey results are divided into three categories: overall findings, areas of strength, and areas of concern. Students’ top health concerns were centered on mental health and well-being, with their top three concerns being stress, anxiety, and depression. About 32% of those who took the Healthy Minds Survey reported experiencing at least one significant mental health challenge.

Some areas of strength for Georgia Tech included the fact that 98% of students who responded to the Healthy Minds Survey said they would talk to someone if they were experiencing serious emotional distress, and 82% said they know where to go if they need to seek professional help.

Under areas of concern, 69% of students who took the Healthy Minds Survey reported experiencing one or more days when emotional or mental difficulties impacted their academic performance in the past four weeks. While Tech students reported high overall numbers of anxiety, they were consistent with other institutions that participated in the survey.

“While about a third of students are struggling or have struggled with a mental health challenge, it’s important to recognize that the majority are not,” said Stacy Connell, senior director for Health Initiatives. “This emphasizes the need to focus on cultivating a culture of health, well-being, and resilience at Georgia Tech.”

Survey findings have already been used to inform and implement several new campus initiatives, including the planning and construction for the Center for Assessment, Referral, and Education (CARE), where hiring for staff is currently in progress. These findings can also be used to help improve existing practices, including in the classroom.

“[The surveys] give us insight into how students assess their own areas of strength and what areas they feel need assistance and more support,” said John Stein, vice president of Student Life and Brandt-Fritz Dean of Students Chair. “The data will also be shared with faculty to help them better understand their students.”

Health Initiatives plans to conduct these surveys every two to three years, creating a rotation so that 22,000 students aren’t surveyed at once. In the meantime, Connell encourages students to reach out to campus leadership with feedback.

“This is how we will continue to grow together as a community so that all students can be successful in the classroom and beyond,” she said.

She also emphasized the role students can take in their own well-being and in looking out for each other.

“Georgia Tech is committed to working hard to create conditions for students to achieve optimal well-being, but it’s up to each student to prioritize self-care and recognize that practicing healthy behaviors is protective for mental health issues,” she said.

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Grace Wyner

Institute Communications