Self Stigma of Seeking Psychological Help as a Predictor of College Students’ Alcohol Use and Consequences during COVID-19
COVID-19 has caused continuous depression, anxiety, and stress, in addition to the already increased symptoms of mental illness typically seen among college students. While diagnosed mental illness is common among college aged individuals, college students frequently experience undiagnosed symptoms of mental illness as well. Additionally, college students typically do not disclose any information regarding experiencing symptoms of mental illness and thus do not receive proper treatment for these undiagnosed disorders. There are numerous reasons students choose not to disclose having a mental illness; however, stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking psychological help stands as the most prominent reason. Untreated mental illness typically leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol use. Alcohol use is also common among college aged individuals, including binge and heavy drinking. Any amount of alcohol consumption could result in experiencing alcohol-related consequences, which includes increased symptoms of mental illness, leading to unhealthy perpetual coping mechanisms. This study explored the relationships between symptoms of mental illness, self-stigma of seeking psychological help, alcohol use, and alcohol-related consequences. Additionally, this study investigated self-stigma of seeking psychological help as a mediator of the relationship between symptoms of mental illness and alcohol use. Participants (n = 206; 74.8% female) completed a series of questionnaires that assessed their symptoms of mental illness, stigma towards seeking psychological help, alcohol use, and alcohol consequences. Data was collected retrospectively in which participants given these measures to answer specific to two different time points: pre-COVID (i.e., Time 1) and during COVID-19 (i.e., spring 2021; Time 2). Descriptive analyses suggested that prior to COVID-19, most participants experienced normal to mild range of symptoms of depression (64.6%), anxiety (57.3%), and stress (71.8%). Additionally, half of the participants (49.5%) reported no alcohol use pre-COVID-19 and most participants (85.9%) reported low severity of alcohol-related consequences. A series of linear regressions were used to investigate the relationships between the predictor variables (i.e., DASS scores, self-stigma of seeking psychological help, and alcohol use) and outcome variables (i.e., alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences) while controlling for COVID stress. Results from the linear regression analyses suggested that all four models of depression, anxiety, stress, and self-stigma of seeking psychological help significantly predicted alcohol use. Similarly, all four models significantly predicted alcohol-related consequences. No mediation model was significant, suggesting that self-stigma of seeking psychological help does not mediate the relationship between symptoms of mental illness and alcohol use or alcohol-related consequences. Alternatively, the moderated mediation that investigated the indirect effects of depression on alcohol consequences via alcohol use at three levels of self-stigma of seeking psychological help was statistically significant. This suggests that self-stigma of seeking help does serve as a moderator for alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences. These findings emphasize the importance of examining the influence of stigma associated with mental illness and help-seeking on the relationship with coping strategies, such as alcohol use, and related consequences. Future directions include establishing interventions that target Hispanic college students to seek psychological help instead of utilizing alcohol use as a maladaptive coping mechanism.
Experimental psychology|Higher education|Educational psychology|Clinical psychology|Mental health
Sanchez, Aitiana Ivonne, "Self Stigma of Seeking Psychological Help as a Predictor of College Students’ Alcohol Use and Consequences during COVID-19" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30242270.