University of Wisconsin students were invited to participate in the Healthy Minds Survey, administered by University Health Services.
The survey examines the mental health of undergraduate and graduate students, according to the Healthy Minds website. This is the third year that the survey went out to students on campus, and the first year since 2019.
The survey asks students about the current state of their mental health, their personal history with mental health issues, prior use of mental health services and their use of drugs and alcohol, according to the UHS website.
According to UHS Suicide Prevention Coordinator Valerie Donovan, the survey was sent to half of UW students via email, which appeared in students’ inboxes from Dr. Sarah Nolan.
Though participation is recommended, it is not mandatory, and participants may skip any question they do not wish to answer. Additionally, the survey is completely confidential and results are provided in summary form, Donovan said.
The ultimate goal of the survey is to provide a snapshot of the climate on campus, Donovan said.
“[The survey] offers an opportunity to shape our strategies, policies, programs and services to better support student mental health,” Donovan said. “[It] gives a good understanding of what the current state of campus climate and student services is with mental health.”
After the survey is completed, all respondents will receive a list of local and campus mental health resources, according to the UHS website.
Respondents who indicate that they experience symptoms of depression or anxiety will be shown a list of services tailored to fit their needs, the website said.
There are currently a variety of mental health services available for students on campus, Donovan said.
According to Donovan, a good starting point for students seeking mental health services is to visit the UHS Mental Health Website for up-to-date information.
Students can use this website to explore their options. If a student decides that they would like to pursue mental health services through UHS, they should schedule an initial appointment — called an access appointment — through their MyUHS Portal, Donovan said.
Though the mental health services currently offered by UHS are a start, the Healthy Minds Survey will help tailor services to specifically meet students’ needs, according to Donovan.
The survey was last given in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Donovan said.
“This time, the survey has specific questions regarding the impact of the pandemic,” Donovan said. “This will be one of the first opportunities to learn about how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of UW-Madison students.”
Other surveys have shown that the pandemic has impacted student mental health, according to Donovan, but the Healthy Minds survey will give the university more insight into what particular issues students are struggling with and the full extent of the pandemic’s influence.
Sarah Nolan, UHS Director of Mental Health Services, said gathering data surrounding this topic from students will be valuable in an email statement to The Badger Herald.
“After navigating more than two years in the pandemic, data about current students’ mental health is important now more than ever,” Nolan said. “We hope Badgers see the importance in sharing their perceptions of campus climate and mental health so the campus can best shape strategies, policies, programs and services to fit these needs.”
How the pandemic affected student mental health has not yet been analyzed — which makes survey participation even more important, Donovan said.
When the survey was last administered on the UW campus, the report showed the response rate was about 17%.
According to the report, those who respond to the survey do not accurately reflect the campus population. So, UHS compares the demographics of the respondents, such as age, race, grade point average and socio-economic status, to that of the entire student population in order to account for the concerns of students who did not participate.
The report indicates that in 2019, 31% of students experienced depression, and 14% experienced extreme depression.
“Our 2019 findings showed an increase in mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation,” Nolan said. “Yet simultaneously, our campus also found an increase in the use of therapy from the prior survey in 2016.”
After the 2019 survey showed an increase in mental health disorders, UHS increased mental health staffing capacity to better meet the demand for services, Nolan said.
The survey results also supported the development of new training for UW faculty, staff and students to recognize and intervene when students are in mental distress.
In order to boost response rates, monetary incentives are being used to advertise the survey — with students being eligible to receive up to $200 on their WisCard, according to the UHS website.
The Healthy Minds Survey is available until May 2 and can be taken online through a link sent via email.