How College Students’ Peer Support Can Impact Academic Success
According to a recent study released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, students may be dealing with their financial struggle in a more serious and burdensome way than previously thought.
Children of college students from high-income families were found to be more likely to report that their family provides for mental health care needs of their student, compared to high-income children who have no family support in obtaining this care.
“This development highlights the significant impact that peer networks play in academic achievement. Highly effective alumni networks can support student-led peer support and play a critical role in campus-based efforts to close academic achievement disparities,” said the study’s lead author Michael Kinney.
The finding came after researchers conducted a national survey of more than 20,000 high school students, and analyses of available survey data.
“We can no longer continue to view the issue of student mental health as a school-based problem. We must ask about the relationships between access to medical care, housing and financial aid,” Kinney explained.
In the same vein, the study showed that seven out of 10 high school students, high-income and low-income, would consider medical or community resources a viable route to address emotional health issues. Nearly two-thirds of those considered mental health a legitimate life-long concern.
“This study reveals the scope of the mental health crisis facing college students,” said Sarah Kastan, who works in the University of Arkansas office of public health and academic affairs and served as the principal investigator of the study.
While National Institute of Mental Health reports that five percent of high school students will have an episode of mental illness during their academic careers, the statistics are troubling. These numbers reflect student engagement, academics, and general college success. Mental health stressors at the time of the college experience could cost students – and their families – as much as $1,900 on average each year.
More than 71 percent of students surveyed said their family members provide financial support for getting mental health care. Almost 30 percent described mental health support from their friends as a true “lifeline” in handling a life-threatening problem, including depression, anxiety, or seeking treatment for suicidal thoughts.
The study shows that the parents of students who are college students have contributed the greatest amount of time and finances in order to facilitate student-lead peer support groups. They are more likely to serve as a sounding board for students and help provide guidance, either face-to-face or online.
When talking about the study’s results, Kinney said, “For decades, we’ve been talking about the importance of mental health support for college students. I think it’s also clear that our research points us toward the need for a more robust support system for college students, as well as to the possibility of students playing a role in creating it.”