Using Structured Self-help Materials
Graeme Whitfield and Chris Williams
The use of self-help approaches offers one possible means of providing access to effective psychosocial treatments in a way that is popular and acceptable to a student population. This chapter will review the rationale for self help, and discuss how it may be used in practice. Depression is a common condition that is associated with marked distress for the sufferer, and has a significant impact on social functioning. Since concentration problems are so prominent in depression, and the ability to concentrate so crucial to studying, it might be predicted that depression would be more damaging to students than to many other social groups. In the US, depression is the most common mental health-related reason for withdrawal from college, as well as a strong predictor of poor academic outcome (Meilman et al. 1992). Issues of stigma commonly influence access to treatment of mental health problems. In a survey of attitudes to student mental health services in all 126 US and Canadian medical schools, Plaut et al. (1993) found that students showed most concern with issues of privacy and confidentiality. Examples of concern included confidentiality of records, location of the mental health service and availability of therapists who would not be in a position to evaluate the student academically at some point after the therapy. Students fear that acknowledging and seeking assistance for mental health problems may endanger their position in education and might prevent them from taking up a preferred career such as law or medicine. This may result in low or delayed uptake of services to support students experiencing such difficulties.