Purpose: Due to the high volume and acuity of mental health issues presented by graduate and professional students nationwide, this study explored specific mental health needs in students in order to identify credible areas for intervention.
Methods: An assessment tool was created for this project, which identified satisfaction with current services, stress, coping, sleeping, eating, exercise, high risk sexual behaviours, social support, depression and substance use. Students at top ranking academic medical centres within the USA received a copy of the instrument on 2 separate occasions.
Results: Results indicated that graduate and professional students reported alarming symptoms of depression, stress and substance use. Increased symptoms of depression were associated with high levels of stress and low social support.
Conclusion: Given the high rates of depression symptoms in this setting, along with inadequate services and long waiting lists, interventions must be found to address need. Need assessment is a proactive method of exploring need in specific populations in order to provide preventive and clinical services efficiently. Based on the relationship between stress, social support and symptoms of depression, forming groups aimed at preventing depression may be the best method of reducing the severity and frequency of symptoms in students.