Our goal: Increase access to mental health care services to university students in India
The World Health Organization found that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental disorder in their lives. In this U.S., this is roughly 80 million people. In India, this is roughly 310 million people. However, the number of available mental health professionals in the U.S. is roughly 550,000, while it is only 5,000 in India. Given this significant imbalance in help needed and resources available, an alternative way to deliver mental health support is necessary.
In addition to a lack of available resources, many people in India don’t access treatment due to issues like stigma and cost. Students are most at risk for mental health issues given their age and new environment, and stigma from peer groups often prevents them from asking for help when they need it most.
To address these issues, we propose an alternative way to offer mental health support to students in a way that is more private and accessible. We will provide students with personalized, online and mobile programs designed to strengthen their mental wellness. Additionally, some of these programs will be supported by trained clinicians who guide and motivate students through these programs (online ‘coaches’) – think of these as a half program / half human hybrid.
Students will complete a survey, be divided into categories based on their reported symptoms (e.g., no stress, some stress, and significant stress), and be assigned a program personalized to their needs.
The main benefit to students of this novel approach is that they can get help anonymously and privately – on their own time and on the platforms on which they already live. The main benefit to universities is the ability to provide mental health services to a greater number of students at a lower cost.
What’s the value of this research?
We hope to better understand the efficacy and viability of these models of service delivery. We will learn if these types of programs can reduce anxiety symptoms among those with severe anxiety symptoms and prevent the onset of anxiety among those who are at risk / showing early signs of symptoms.
We will also study the acceptability of this type of program – Will students use it? Do they perceive it as a valuable source of support? Is the administration willing to implement this model of providing mental health services?
Finally, we will study the community impact of implementing this type of program. Reducing stigma around mental health is imperative to increasing student willingness to ask for help, and we believe providing more accessible services is the first step.
So what’s the future of this project?
If this pilot trial is successful, our goal is to expand across universities in India and customize programs for the Indian student population.