Examining the effect of discrimination and stigma on utilization of mental health services among college students

J Am Coll Health. 2021 Sep 14;1-8. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2021.1970561. Online ahead of print.


Background: Even though onset of three-quarters of mental disorders occurs by age 25, few young adults seek help for their mental health needs. The objectives of this study are to examine the relationship of discrimination and stigma of mental illness on the help-seeking behavior for mental health among college students.

Method: Undergraduate students (N = 557) at a Midwestern university were surveyed online. Descriptive and logistic regression analysis was conducted using STATA15.

Results: College students reporting higher discrimination were more likely to seek help for mental health services (OR = 1.04, CI = 1.01-1.06), after controlling for all covariates. Students with higher personal stigma reported lower odds of help-seeking behavior (OR = 89, CI = .80-.97). Students with higher perceived public stigma did not have an independent significant association on help-seeking behavior initially, but full model revealed a significantly association (OR = 1.02, CI = .99-1.05).

Conclusion: Developing targeted interventions addressing discrimination and stigma of mental illness is critical among college students.

Keywords: College students; discrimination; perceived public stigma; personal stigma; utilization of mental health services.