Survey examines mental health and diversity

As the pandemic continues to impact the lives of students, specialists at the Marshall University Counseling Center are asking students to help them improve mental health service accessibility and diversity on campus.   

All students are invited to participate in a research project called “Examination of Campus Mental Health Treatment Disparity,” a survey designed to study the need for improved health services for students with diverse backgrounds.   

Conducting this research is Dr. Penny Koontz, an associate psychology professor and psychology Clinic Director. Koontz said she had the idea for the project last year during the Black Lives Matter movement, which jumpstarted conversations about disparities based on racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Koontz said that as Clinic Director, she is concerned about the accessibility of mental health services, whether students are aware of the services available to them and whether the needs of all students are being met. 

“Marshall has really wonderful mental health services available to students,” Koontz said. “I believe there is always room to improve.” 

The goal of the project is to identify the needs of students from diverse backgrounds, decide what changes the Counseling Center can make, reduce barriers students face while trying to seek help and create a safe campus environment where students are knowledgeable about mental health services.

Some specific improvements she hopes to see, once the study identifies these specific needs, are enhanced visibility for the Counseling Center, the development of programming and services specifically for students of diverse backgrounds, the provision of online resources or written materials and perhaps specialized support groups for students with different needs. 

She is working in collaboration with Dr. Candace Layne, the Director of Marshall’s Counseling Center, and an advisory board of faculty and students from diverse backgrounds to provide consultation and suggestions.   

Koontz sent the survey to all students through the student email directory and plans to do a follow-up mailing to student organizations and student offices dedicated to improving school diversity.   

Koontz said she is very pleased with the feedback the study has received already. In two days, the study received around 600 participants. “I am ecstatic, I could not be more excited about the response, and I’m hoping that even with our more targeted roll-out of the survey, those numbers will increase. Everyone’s feedback is valuable and helps us make more informed decisions about what we want to do moving forward.” 

Students who complete the anonymous survey will have the option of entering a drawing for one of 12 $25 Amazon gift cards.   

The survey will be accessible throughout the month of February for any student who wishes to participate.   

Madison Perdue can be contacted at [email protected]