The Psychological Impact of the COVID-19 Epidemic on Guangdong College Students: The Difference Between Seeking and Not Seeking Psychological Help

Front Psychol. 2020 Sep 4;11:2231. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02231. eCollection 2020.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has considerably psychologically impacted Chinese college students. Several types of online mental health services were widely implemented for college students during the outbreak. This study investigated the relationship between college students' mental health status and psychological help-seeking behavior to test the phases-decision-making model (PDM).

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among college students in Guangdong Province using an online platform. In total, 4,164 students were assigned to the "counseling group" or "non-counseling group" according to whether they had sought psychological help because of the COVID-19 outbreak; the groups were matched based on age, sex, and grade. Demographics, perceived mental health, and experience with seeking psychological help were recorded. Fear, depression, and trauma were assessed by the COVID-19 Fear Screening Scale, Patient Health Questionnaire, and Impact of Event Scale-6.

Results: The fear, depression, and trauma scores were significantly higher in the counseling group than in the non-counseling group (P s < 0.001). Fear (OR = 1.27, p < 0.001), depression (OR = 1.02, p = 0.032), trauma (OR = 1.08, p < 0.001), poor perceived mental health status (OR = 3.61, p = 0.001), and experience with seeking psychological help (OR = 7.06, p < 0.001) increased the odds of seeking psychological help.

Conclusion: During the COVID-19 epidemic, the rate of psychological help-seeking was still low, and college students in poor psychological condition sought psychological counseling more. Fear, depression, trauma, experience with seeking psychological help, and perceived mental health can effectively predict psychological help-seeking behavior. These findings emphasized the importance of closely monitoring college students' psychological status, providing psychological intervention, and improving the probability of seeking psychological help.

Keywords: COVID-19; college students; fear; mental health; psychological help-seeking.