Abstract: Examining the Link between Mental Health, Campus Climate, Sense of Belonging and Stigma Among Latina/o College Students (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Examining the Link between Mental Health, Campus Climate, Sense of Belonging and Stigma Among Latina/o College Students

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Liberty Ballroom O, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Yesenia Garcia, MSW, Bilingual Therapist I, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Los Angeles, CA
Jessy K. Perez, MSW, MSW student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Andrea Mora, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
The prevalence of poor mental health amongst college students continues to rise in the United States as more students meet diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder (Zivin et al., 2009). Indeed, depression and anxiety are the most common mental health disorders among the college student population (Pedrelli et al., 2015). Despite the increasing rates of poor mental health among college students, help-seeking rates remain low (Eisenberg et al., 2012). Racial/ethnic minority students are less likely than white Americans to seek mental health services (Masuda et al., 2009). Personal stigma and public stigma have been linked to help-seeking (Eisenberg et al., 2009), and thus stigma can be a barrier towards receiving treatment. College campuses can play a unique role in promoting mental health and reducing stigma towards receiving treatment, yet little research has examined whether colleges are effective in helping Latina/o students.

Data were drawn from 8,130 Latina/o college students who participated in the 2017–2018 Healthy Minds Study, a national online survey that examines college students’ psychological well-being. Students were majority female (n = 5,618; 69.3%) and on average 22.98 (SD = 6.03) years old. Participants completed the highly used General Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), which assessed students’ anxiety (Spitzer et al., 2006; 𝛂 = .91) and depressive (Spitzer et al., 1999; 𝛂 = .89) symptoms, respectively. Students also reported how supportive they perceived their campus to be towards mental health and their personal and public mental health utilization stigma perceptions. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses examined Latina/os’ anxiety, depression, perception of the campus climate, and school belonging to their perceived personal and public stigma. The moderating effect of campus climate and school belonging was also tested.

Latina/o students’ age, sex, and academic level were associated with personal, but not public stigma. In line with previous research (Pedersen & Paves, 2014), findings indicated that Latina/o students who reported greater anxiety and depressive symptoms also reported increased public and self stigma. Additionally, college campuses perceived as being more supportive of mental health and well-being were associated with increased personal and public stigma. Sense of belonging was also associated with increased personal and public stigma among Latina/o college students. Campuses supportive of mental health and sense of belonging did not moderate the relations between Latina/o college students’ anxiety and depressive symptoms and their perceived personal and public stigma toward mental health care utilization.

Findings in the current study highlight the role of public stigma and perceived personal stigma amongst Latina/o college students. College campuses that promote positive mental health and prioritize students’ well-being may be missing a cultural component in reducing students’ stigma towards receiving treatment. Findings suggest that supportive campuses do not moderate the relation between Latina/o student’s well being and perceived stigma. These findings represent an opportunity for college campuses to reduce perceived and public stigma by developing multilayered interventions that challenge culturally relevant stigmas in addition to the information and services that campuses already provide.