According to a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of adults who dropout of college or decide not to attend college report mental health issues as the primary reason. By the spring semester of my sophomore year, I was academically dismissed from my state university, twice. At the time, I was only beginning to understand how my academic failure was deeply connected to my own struggle with depression and anxiety. Unfortunately my story is not unique, as one in five young adults will experience a mental health condition during their college years.
How chatbots can improve access to mental health resources for college students.
In petitioning my first academic dismissal, I discussed my mental health struggles. That of which included a debilitating lack of motivation, sometimes to the extent that I felt unable to leave my bed for days at a time. In response to my appeal, the university required that I utilize the school’s personal counseling, career counseling, and academic advising while still attending classes and working part-time. For someone in a mental health crisis, accomplishing these tasks can be extremely difficult, if they are accomplished at all. 30% of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point during the previous year that they found it difficult to function.
For my situation in 2005, I spent hours scouring webpages to learn everything I could in order to avoid phone calls or visits to the university offices due to anxiety. In the NAMI survey, students cited their college website as a primary source of information for learning about mental health services and supports, however 40% of those students found the information only somewhat helpful. Ivy’s chatbots provide an opportunity to help remedy this issue by crawling all information from your school’s counseling and mental health webpages, and by also providing data on what information is missing based on students’ questions.
In the survey, students indicated the top three barriers to accessing mental health resources were the mental health stigma (36%), busy schedules (34%), and the hours of service available (25%).
There is no denying that human interaction is often essential to assisting individuals struggling with mental health issues. However, for students struggling with a variety of mental health symptoms, such as fatigue, poor motivation, and shame, easy access to academic resources can be a critical step to providing them the support needed to prevent drop-out and achieve academic success. By using chatbots, students could easily schedule appointments, learn about maintaining or regaining eligibility, access forms, or even speak to a live agent when available to seek further personalized assistance. They can slowly overcome fears and stigma, by asking personal questions in an anonymous format.
Online information was vital in my situation and gave me the confidence to make the decisions I needed to move on to the next chapter of my life, one of the greatest chapters. I transferred to a smaller college, fell in love with learning again, and was even chosen to be the graduation speaker for my major’s departmental ceremony. I promised myself that I would help others in similar situations, mentoring and tutoring students in my final years of college, and seeking further opportunities in my career.
In recognizing the importance of mental health issues on campus, Ivy is committed to creating chatbots that provide accurate, supportive, and 24/7 answers to students’ mental health questions. At the end of the day, it is important that students understand recovery is possible; it can and does get better. They can go on to live full and rich lives, supported by their academic community, and succeed in their educational pursuits and beyond.