Mental Health in College: Risk, Resilience, and Resources

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 29, 2019 - August 02, 20197/29 - 8/02M-F 12:15P-3:05POpenAudrey Zakriski

Course Description

How should we understand the “mental health crisis” on American college campuses? Can the increasing rates of mental health service utilization among college students be fully explained by the narrative of increasing “emotional fragility” in a generation at-risk? Or could they also be indicative of institutional and societal forces that have prioritized academic success at the expense of mental well-being? Might they reflect increasing mental health literacy, decreasing mental health-related stigma, and increasing mental health advocacy among Gen Z students? Could they also indicate that colleges and universities are increasingly addressing unmet mental health needs on their campuses? Together, we will examine these important questions as we strive to understand the increased demand for college mental health services in recent years and the adequacy of current college mental health services. We will also consider mental health risks for today’s college students, strategies for supporting mental well-being during college, and national organizations working to advance campus mental health services, student mental health advocacy, and mental health equity.

In this course, we will examine current academic research, popular press articles, advocacy efforts, and mental health programs and policies to better understand 1) what forces are shaping the mental health needs and concerns of today’s college students; 2) assessment/treatment/prevention issues for the most common mental health issues facing emerging adults in college; 3) how colleges are responding to better support the mental health needs of their students and in some cases even prioritize mental wellness at the institutional level; 4) what national organizations are doing to enhance mental health services and infrastructure (e.g., The Jed Foundation), promote peer support and mental health activism (e.g., Active Minds), and advance mental health equity (e.g., The Steve Fund); and 5) how college-bound students might think about evaluating the mental health climate, services, programs, and policies of college/universities they are considering in their college search process.

We will engage with these issues through readings, website reviews, class discussions, and small group work. Class discussions and in-class exercises will be informed by the instructor’s work as a professor of Psychology, co-advisor of an Active Minds (student mental health advocacy group) chapter, co-facilitator of the Student Support Network training program (peer mental health support), collaborator in campus outreach for student counseling services, advisor for student-led mental health stigma reduction programming and program evaluation, and researcher focused on college student mental health (e.g., peer outreach for depression, multicultural expertise and counseling service utilization among underrepresented students, mindful social media use and mental well-being, and resilience based interventions for college students with mental health concerns).

By the end of this course, students will have gained a better understanding of the following:

• Common mental health concerns and risks for emerging adults in college
• Individual and institutional sources of increased college counseling service utilization
• Strategies and resources for mental health promotion at the individual, peer group, campus, and
national levels
• How to evaluate the mental health services, programs, policies, and climates of colleges they may be
considering attending

Prerequisites: This course provides a foundation for further study in the fields of clinical and developmental psychology, sociology and public health. It may be especially relevant for students going into their junior or senior year of high school, but all are welcome. An introductory level knowledge of psychology is preferred but is not necessary.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0966
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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