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News Release

Rise in Student Mental Health Challenges Prompts Campus Initiative to Help


emotional difficulties
From left to right, panelists Mandy Bratton, Judy Goodman and Patricia Lea'e gave advice to UC San Diego staff about how to best help students cope with emotional difficulties.

San Diego, CA, June 18, 2008 -- About 60 UC San Diego faculty and staff   attended a panel discussion on May 27 titled “Helping Students with Emotional Difficulties,” which was sponsored by the Jacobs School of Engineering. Violent incidents involving students at Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech and other university campuses have prompted UC San Diego to address the issue of how to identify and assist students in emotional distress.

“We need to figure out ways to deal with these issues proactively before it’s too late,” said Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School. “I’m interested in finding out how we should implement intervention strategies not only for the Jacobs School but also across the UC San Diego campus.” He said it’s crucial for universities to work collaboratively across all academic units.

Mandy Bratton, a panelist and director of the UC San Diego Teams in Engineering Service (TIES) program who also is a counseling psychologist, noted that studies have shown a rise in the number of college students coping with depression, anxiety, and other  mental health challenges.

Other panelists included Judy Goodman, a clinical psychologist at UCSD’s Psychological and Counseling Services, and Corporal Patricia Lea’e of the UCSD Police Department. The event was moderated by Becky Hames, program manager of the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science COSMOS) program, who recently completed an internship in college counseling in Engineering Student Services,.

Goodman pointed out the following signs of distress in students:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Skipping classes
  • Odd appearance or decline in self-care
  • Odd or unusual thought processes in written work
  • Interpersonally withdrawn or isolated
  • Excessive response to small incidents
  • Lack of response to empathetic contact
  • Expression of homicidal or suicidal thoughts

Goodman said some of the barriers to student support at universities include a lack of coordination among campus services, lack of faculty or staff support, and the stigma associated with mental illness in general.  However, she said simple interventions can be extremely helpful to suffering students.

“If you notice a student’s performance is slipping or if they are not paying attention to how they’re dressing or they’re more withdrawn, it might be a good time to reach out to that student,” said Goodman. She noted that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, right behind motor vehicle accidents.

“Faculty and staff need to be direct with the student and help them access resources on campus that can help them,” Goodman said. “Suicide prevention is violence prevention. Our job is to educate the whole community about early warning signs.”

Gary Gillespie, a lecturer for the Jacobs School’s Computer Science and Engineering Department, attended the event to learn how to help stressed students. After all, he said, engineering is a tough and demanding field.

“Being able to balance their social lives and maintaining a level of high academic performance is a challenge for these students,’ Gillespie said. “With all the advances in technology, students feel a pressure to learn about all the latest technology and to be the next leaders in this field.”







Media Contacts

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering