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Mental Health Stigma, Dysfunction, and Stress Among Graduate Students


Mental health dysfunction is as much as five to six times higher among doctoral students than the general public, yet young adults are least likely to seek treatment, at least in part due to mental health stigma. In the present study, I examined the relationships among mental health dysfunction, mental health stigma, and life stress across doctoral program types, including Health Service Psychology (HSP; n = 28), Experimental Psychology (EP; n = 40), and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM; n = 98). Although rates of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms were consistent across Program Types, significantly more HSP students have sought treatment than EP or STEM students. Rates of stigma and stress were also similar across Program Types. In a women-only subsample, female STEM students reported significantly higher depression symptoms than female HSP students. In a STEM-only subsample, female STEM students were found to have significantly higher somatic, anxiety, and depression symptoms than male STEM students, as well as higher rates of discrimination stigma, perceived stress, and graduate student stress than men. Limitations, implications, and recommendations are discussed, including the role of universities, doctoral programs, and faculty in providing graduate students access to resources, education about mental health support, and improving treatment seeking.

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