All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Robin Lanzi

Advisory Committee Members

Ann Elizabeth Montgomery

Lisa Schwiebert

Angela Stowe

George Munchus

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2021

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Public Health

Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic, increased isolation from supportive relationships, uncertainty about the future, fear of illness, and lack of traditional life-events took a toll on university student mental health. It is important to understand undergraduate students’ mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and their desires for support from their institutions of higher education. Existing studies have documented increased rates of depression, stress, and anxiety among university undergraduates; however, these studies rarely illuminate students’ perspectives on mental health services, resources, and supports that they need during and because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This phenomenological study explored the perspectives of undergraduate university students on the need of university-provided mental health services, resources, and supports during the COVID-19 pandemic from July 2020-December 2020. To that end, the central research question addressed by this dissertation is “How can an urban, public university in the southeastern United States support undergraduate student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?” The two sub-research questions are (1) “What do undergraduate students state that they need/want from their institution of higher education to support their mental health?” and (2) “Which of the student requests to address their mental health needs are currently available and how can we increase their visibility, accessibility, and use?” To answer these questions, the following data were analyzed (1) qualitative student survey data (n=491), (2) student semi-structured interviews (n=48), and (3) documentation of mental health services, resources, and supports available over time. Analysis of qualitative data collected through surveys and interviews followed the procedure outlined by Moustakis (1994). After laying the foundation with the literature review, content analysis was used to analyze survey data, thematic analysis was used for interview data, and documentation gathering strategies were used to create recommendations to support student mental health through the continuation of relevant services and increasing the visibility, accessibility, and use of existing services, resources, and supports. These findings may facilitate the connection of undergraduate student voices with university administrators leading to the provision of better access to mental health resources, services, and supports. As undergraduate student mental health is better supported, academic outcomes may improve.

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