Community college student mental health: Using ACHA-NCHA data to evaluate differences in the student experience based on self-reported mental health indicators
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Depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances are among the most prevalent mental health disorders on college campuses. College students face numerous life challenges that may exacerbate an underlying mental illness affecting students thinking, feelings mood, daily functioning, and ability to relate to others. Mental and physical health plays an important role in academic performance, and ultimately, student success, and the transition to college life can affect overall health. The primary purpose of this research study was to examine the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II (ACHA-NCHA II) Institutional Data Report for relationships between self-reported mental health disorders of anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders and demographic characteristics, college mental health resources offered, and levels of physical activity of college students. The sample consisted of 466 student participants (65.5% female; 33.3% male) from a community college in central California during the spring 2013 semester. Statistical procedures utilized included cross-tabulation with Pearson’s chi-square analysis, independent sample t-test, one-way ANOVA, logistic regressions, and MANOVA. The primary results revealed more participants self-reported diagnosis/treatment for anxiety (18%) and depression (17.8%). Participants with self-reported anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders were female, Caucasian, with an average age of 30 years. The results indicated a significant relationship between self-reported diagnosis/treatment for anxiety and interest in receiving information on depression or anxiety. Results also indicated a significant relationship between age, gender, year in school, and general health and the effect on self-reported anxiety. The student population in this study was also above the highest national estimate for prevalence of obesity and below the national estimate for time spent on physical activity. The ecological model was the framework used to determine potential avenues for community colleges to improve services and resources for its students. This study demonstrates the need to specifically address and evaluate community college campuses across the nation. Future research needs to investigate benefits and barriers to mental health access, utilization, and resources on campus; institutional support for mental health awareness programs and campaigns; and innovative recreational and intramural opportunities for students on campus.