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Suicidal behaviors are prevalent among college students; however, students remain reluctant to seek support. We developed a predictive algorithm to identify students at risk of suicidal behavior and used telehealth to reduce subsequent risk.
Data come from several waves of a prospective cohort study (2016–2022) of college students (n = 5454). All first-year students were invited to participate as volunteers. (Response rates range: 16.00–19.93%). A stepped-care approach was implemented: (i) all students received a comprehensive list of services; (ii) those reporting past 12-month suicidal ideation were directed to a safety planning application; (iii) those identified as high risk of suicidal behavior by the algorithm or reporting 12-month suicide attempt were contacted via telephone within 24-h of survey completion. Intervention focused on support/safety-planning, and referral to services for this high-risk group.
5454 students ranging in age from 17–36 (s.d. = 5.346) participated; 65% female. The algorithm identified 77% of students reporting subsequent suicidal behavior in the top 15% of predicted probabilities (Sensitivity = 26.26 [95% CI 17.93–36.07]; Specificity = 97.46 [95% CI 96.21–98.38], PPV = 53.06 [95% CI 40.16–65.56]; AUC range: 0.895 [95% CIs 0.872–0.917] to 0.966 [95% CIs 0.939–0.994]). High-risk students in the Intervention Cohort showed a 41.7% reduction in probability of suicidal behavior at 12-month follow-up compared to high-risk students in the Control Cohort.
Predictive risk algorithms embedded into universal screening, coupled with telehealth intervention, offer significant potential as a suicide prevention approach for students.
This study investigates associations of several dimensions of childhood adversities (CAs) with lifetime mental disorders, 12-month disorder persistence, and impairment among incoming college students.
Data come from the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS). Web-based surveys conducted in nine countries (n = 20 427) assessed lifetime and 12-month mental disorders, 12-month role impairment, and seven types of CAs occurring before the age of 18: parental psychopathology, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect, bullying victimization, and dating violence. Poisson regressions estimated associations using three dimensions of CA exposure: type, number, and frequency.
Overall, 75.8% of students reported exposure to at least one CA. In multivariate regression models, lifetime onset and 12-month mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders were all associated with either the type, number, or frequency of CAs. In contrast, none of these associations was significant when predicting disorder persistence. Of the three CA dimensions examined, only frequency was associated with severe role impairment among students with 12-month disorders. Population-attributable risk simulations suggest that 18.7–57.5% of 12-month disorders and 16.3% of severe role impairment among those with disorders were associated with these CAs.
CAs are associated with an elevated risk of onset and impairment among 12-month cases of diverse mental disorders but are not involved in disorder persistence. Future research on the associations of CAs with psychopathology should include fine-grained assessments of CA exposure and attempt to trace out modifiable intervention targets linked to mechanisms of associations with lifetime psychopathology and burden of 12-month mental disorders.
Although non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is an issue of major concern to colleges worldwide, we lack detailed information about the epidemiology of NSSI among college students. The objectives of this study were to present the first cross-national data on the prevalence of NSSI and NSSI disorder among first-year college students and its association with mental disorders.
Data come from a survey of the entering class in 24 colleges across nine countries participating in the World Mental Health International College Student (WMH-ICS) initiative assessed in web-based self-report surveys (20 842 first-year students). Using retrospective age-of-onset reports, we investigated time-ordered associations between NSSI and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-IV) mood (major depressive and bipolar disorder), anxiety (generalized anxiety and panic disorder), and substance use disorders (alcohol and drug use disorder).
NSSI lifetime and 12-month prevalence were 17.7% and 8.4%. A positive screen of 12-month DSM-5 NSSI disorder was 2.3%. Of those with lifetime NSSI, 59.6% met the criteria for at least one mental disorder. Temporally primary lifetime mental disorders predicted subsequent onset of NSSI [median odds ratio (OR) 2.4], but these primary lifetime disorders did not consistently predict 12-month NSSI among respondents with lifetime NSSI. Conversely, even after controlling for pre-existing mental disorders, NSSI consistently predicted later onset of mental disorders (median OR 1.8) as well as 12-month persistence of mental disorders among students with a generalized anxiety disorder (OR 1.6) and bipolar disorder (OR 4.6).
NSSI is common among first-year college students and is a behavioral marker of various common mental disorders.
Evidence about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of specific subpopulations, such as university students, is needed as communities prepare for future waves.
To study the association of proximity of COVID-19 with symptoms of anxiety and depression in university students.
This trend study analysed weekly cross-sectional surveys of probabilistic samples of students from the University of British Columbia for 13 weeks, through the first wave of COVID-19. The main variable assessed was propinquity of COVID-19, defined as ‘knowing someone who tested positive for COVID-19’, which was specified at different levels: knowing someone anywhere globally, in Canada, in Vancouver, in their course or at home. Proximity was included in multivariable linear regressions to assess its association with primary outcomes, including 30-day symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.
Of 1388 respondents (adjusted response rate of 50%), 5.6% knew someone with COVID-19 in Vancouver, 0.8% in their course and 0.3% at home. Ten percent were overwhelmed and unable to access help. Knowing someone in Vancouver was associated with an 11-percentage-point increase in the probability of 30-day anxiety symptoms (s.e. 0.05, P ≤ 0.05), moderated by gender, with a significant interaction of the exposure and being female (coefficient −20, s.e. 0.09, P ≤ 0.05). No association was found with depressive symptoms.
Propinquity of COVID-19 cases may increase the likelihood of anxiety symptoms in students, particularly among men. Most students reported coping well, but additional support is needed for an emotionally overwhelmed minority who report being unable to access help.
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