In 2014, the University joined more than 400 institutions in the United States and internationally in sending out the Healthy Minds Study survey to its students. The data gathered in that initial study and follow-ups in 2016 and 2018 showed where the University could improve mental health services and helped lead to increased funding for University Counseling Services to better serve the student community. This year, and for the first time, University of Nevada, Reno faculty and staff were included in what will be the most comprehensive survey of mental health ever done at the University.
“We need good mental health survey data to gauge how well the mental health needs of our students and staff are being met,” Psychologist and Director of Counseling Services Yani Dickens said. “Nevada is ranked last in the nation in overall mental health rankings [by Mental Health America], indicating a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower access to care. Good survey data should tell us whether this is the case for our students and staff and help us justify improvements in access to mental health services.”
“We need good mental health survey data to gauge how well the mental health needs of our students and staff are being met.”
The HMS survey screens for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, loneliness and other issues, in addition to gathering information on perceived stigma about mental health problems. Participants are asked about their current utilization of and attitudes or beliefs about mental health services generally and about specific University resources. Results from surveys like this one have helped to identify areas of need, allocate resources and advocate for students – and are now doing the same for faculty and staff, too.
The recently formed University Neurodiversity Alliance and the Disability Resource Center partnered with Counseling Services to expand the reach of the survey beyond the student body, making the 2022 study the largest and most inclusive survey of mental health and neurodiversity ever undertaken at the University.
“Many equate neurodiversity with conditions related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but it includes a wide variety of neurological and psychological conditions ranging from dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to chronic depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior,” Associate Professor and Neurodiversity Alliance founding member Jim Cherney said. “Among the Alliance’s purposes is to combat the ableist discrimination and biases that create various barriers that limit opportunities for neurodivergent people.”
Using this year’s survey as a baseline, the Neurodiversity Alliance hopes to continue collaborating with groups like Counseling Services and the DRC to better understand and serve the needs of faculty, staff and students and bring awareness to the large neurodivergent population at the University.
“Neurodiversity affects far more than the neurodiverse population,” former Assistant Director of the DRC and faculty emerita Mary Anne Christensen said. “It impacts the entire University.”
Counseling Services currently provides individual or group therapy to close to 10% of the student population. This year’s survey will include questions about students' needs and interests in particular areas, such as outreach and treatment programs like the ones offered by Counseling Services, including groups to develop skills for managing emotions and stress, short-term treatment for trauma and/or posttraumatic stress disorder, and the Mental Health First Aid certification course.
“Past results showed that the prevalence of mental health problems among our students increased faster than that of students at our peer institutions,” Dickens said. “This data helped our students decide to increase the student counseling fee, allowing us to grow our services to better meet their needs.”
The 2022 survey launched in early April and runs through May 9. All University students, faculty and staff are encouraged to check their University email inboxes for their unique survey link. Participants, faculty and staff included, have a chance to win Amazon gift cards, Wolf Pack gear and other prizes. All data collected is completely confidential and anonymized. The Healthy Minds Study is conducted by third-party principal investigators at the University of Michigan, where it originated; the University of California-Los Angeles; Wayne State University; and Boston University.
“Please complete the Healthy Minds Study survey to help us determine the mental health needs of our students and staff,” Dickens said. “Your participation really helps!”