Subjective Social Status, Stigma, and Student Experiences with Mental Health Resources



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This study examined the relationship between college students’ subjective social status (SSS) and their use of professional mental health resources offered on a college campus and the extent to which that relationship is mediated by stigma against help-seeking. Participants responded to a quantitative survey about their SSS, their perceptions of public stigma, social network stigma, and self-stigma, and their likelihood to use resources offered on campus and their frequency of use of those resources. It was hypothesized that SSS would be related to both outcome variables, frequency of use and likelihood of use, and that stigma would mediate those relationships, but the results did not support this prediction. Participants with high self-stigma scores participated in qualitative follow-up interviews that expanded on the quantitative findings to explore how stigma shaped their experiences with mental health resources on campus. The themes that emerged from interviews were (a) differences in perceived stigma across regions in the United States, (b) cultural differences in stigma against mental health, (c) perceived a decrease in public stigma against mental health, (d) variability in support from social networks, (e) expressions of self-stigma against help-seeking, (f) positive change in self-image after using mental health resources, (g) varying use of resources offered at Mount Holyoke College, (h) influence of social class on use of mental health resources, and (i) suggestions for change within the Mount Holyoke College Counseling Center. Additionally, subthemes are described within each theme (see Table 9). Limitations and recommendations for future research based on the quantitative and qualitative results are discussed.



subjective social status, stigma, mental health resources, help-seeking behaviors, college student mental health