32% of College Students Are Not Comfortable Asking for Mental Health Assistance

At the same time, 60% of students are comfortable assisting their peers manage their mental health and taking a hands-on approach to their own mental health.

May 23, 2022 · Updated on May 23, 2022

32% of College Students Are Not Comfortable Asking for Mental Health Assistance
Data Studies
Photo by SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

  • Only 17% of students say a mental health professional is a part of their support system.
  • 3 in 4 students say they recognize when their mental health is suffering, but only 41% take immediate steps to improve it.
  • Female students are more likely than male students to take steps to help improve their peers' mental health.
  • LGBTQ+ students are most likely to say they would be willing to use their personal platform to advocate for mental health needs.

Seeking help for mental health conditions can often be a challenge. In a new BestColleges survey of 1,000 currently enrolled undergraduate students, 32% say they are not comfortable asking for mental health assistance.

More students express comfort assisting their peers with mental health needs (60%) and telling them when they believe they need to take steps to improve their mental health (52%).

Students' concern for their peers, as well as their desire to use personal and outside resources to improve student mental health, is also evident. Nearly half of students (45%) say that they are worried about one or more of their student peers, and a quarter (25%) say they would be willing to become a peer counselor.

More than a third of students (36%) additionally say they would be willing to receive or encourage the offering of educational seminars or training on mental health conditions, and 33% would be willing to use their personal platform to advocate for mental health.

While most students are clearly open to taking an active role in improving the mental health of their student peers, around 1 in 5 students (19%) say they have no interest in participating in the improvement of college student mental health.

LGBTQ+ students are significantly more likely than students who identify as straight to say they would be willing to use their personal platform to advocate for mental health needs (42% vs. 29%). They are additionally more likely to say they would be willing to join an advisory committee to explore student mental health needs (37% vs. 28%) and work to identify and secure new mental health funding sources (32% vs. 24%).

Female students are more likely than male students to say they would be willing to use their personal platform to advocate for mental health needs (36% vs. 28%) and become a peer counselor (28% vs. 20%). They are also significantly more likely to say they would be willing to receive or encourage the offering of educational seminars or training on mental health conditions (42% vs. 28%).

More Than 2 in 5 Students Take Immediate Action to Improve Their Mental Health When Needed

Maintaining mental wellness requires constant checking in with yourself, and students say they are taking steps to do this each day. More than half (53%) report they spend time and make an effort to improve or maintain their mental health on a daily basis. Still, 46% of students rate their mental health as "poor" or "fair" compared to 32% who rate it as "good," and less than a quarter (22%) who rate it as "very good" or "excellent."

Further, 3 in 4 students (75%) say they recognize when their mental health is suffering. More than 2 in 5 students (41%) say they immediately take steps to improve it.

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students are more likely than their white counterparts to say they spend time and make an effort to improve or maintain their mental health nearly every day (57% vs. 48%) and to take steps to immediately improve their mental health when needed (47% vs. 36%).

Most Students Count Friends and Parents as Part of Their Support System

When it comes to receiving support, students overwhelmingly turn to friends (65%) and parent(s) or guardian(s) (56%).

Many students also say they consider their siblings (39%) and romantic partner and/or child(ren) (33%) as part of their support system.

Less than 1 in 5 students (17%) say a mental health professional or therapist is a part of this group, and roughly 1 in 10 students (12%) say a counselor at their institution is.

Students who identify as straight are significantly more likely than LGBTQ+ students to say they consider their parents or guardians as part of their support system (60% vs. 46%). Straight students are also twice as likely as LGBTQ+ students to count a religious or spiritual mentor as part of this group (12% vs. 6%).

LGBTQ+ students, on the other hand, are significantly more likely than students who identify as straight to say they consider a mental health professional or therapist as part of their support system (28% vs. 13%).

Female respondents are significantly more likely than male respondents to say a romantic partner or child(ren) is part of their support system (38% vs. 26%).

White respondents are significantly more likely than BIPOC respondents to say they consider their romantic partner and/or child(ren) as part of their support system (42% vs. 24%). They are also significantly more likely to say they consider roommates (29% vs. 17%) and their parents or guardians (60% vs. 51%) as part of their support system.

Students Spend Time on Hobbies to Engage in Self-Care

When asked what has the biggest impact on improving/maintaining their mental health, 35% of students say engaging in self-care activities has the largest impact. Students most commonly engage in self-care by spending time on hobbies (53%) and treating themselves to something they find enjoyable or pleasurable (49%).

Social interaction with other people is also one of the top five ways students engage in self-care (42%). In a March 2021 BestColleges survey, 46% of students said they were experiencing social isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, students are largely able to interact again and are taking advantage of the opportunity to help improve and maintain their mental health.

White respondents are more likely than BIPOC respondents to say they are engaging in self-care by spending time outdoors (48% vs. 33%). They are also significantly more likely than BIPOC respondents to say social interaction with other people (50% vs. 33%) and spending time with pets (47% vs. 31%) is how they are engaging in self care.

BIPOC respondents are just slightly more likely to say they are engaging in self-care through meditation or mindfulness (25% vs. 20%) and taking time away from social media and news (30% vs. 25%).

Overall, most students are taking a hands-on approach to maintaining and improving their mental health all while looking out for the mental health of their peers.

Methodology

The survey was conducted from April 28-May 3, 2022. Student respondents were fielded by Lucid LLC. Survey participants included 1,000 currently enrolled undergraduate students nationwide. Respondents were 18-26 years of age, enrolled at a college or university, and pursuing a bachelor's or associate degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.