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Farah Ahmad

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  • OS04 - Mind the Access to Care Gaps (ID 4)

    • Event: e-Health 2017 Virtual Meeting
    • Type: Oral Session
    • Track: Clinical
    • Presentations: 1
    • Coordinates: 6/05/2017, 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM, Room 202CD
    • OS04.02 - Students Mental Health Virtual Community: Needs and Challenges (ID 359)

      Farah Ahmad, School of Health Policy and Management, York University; Toronto/CA

      • Abstract
      • Slides

      Purpose/Objectives: Mental health problems are increasing at an alarming rate on university campuses across North America, including Canada. Yet, within the Canadian health care system, there are long wait-times for mental health and campus counselling services due to limited resources. System gaps are of particular concern for youth entering post-secondary education under the conditions of economic uncertainty. Indeed, innovative strategies are needed for early engagement of campus youth in health and mental-health promoting practices. With the objective of addressing growing mental health needs in post-secondary students, our team is developing and evaluating a youth-centered Mindfulness Virtual Community (MVC) platform with interactive discussion forums and group sessions led by mental health professionals. This three-phased project is an academic-industry partnership funded by the eHIPP grant initiatives of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

      Methodology/Approach: Using focus group, survey and usability-test methods, we have completed Phase 1 in examining the perspectives and behaviors of undergraduate students on: (1) online and offline activities when faced with stress or mood fluctuations, (2) extent of online activities and its interaction with stress, anxiety and depression, and (3) important and user-friendly features of the MVC platform. Finally, this approach led to additional academic-industry collaborative insights.

      Finding/Results: Our 3-pronged approach involved 8 semi-structured focus groups (to assist content selection), a large online survey (to understand online activities in relation to mental health), and usability testing of the derived platform. Our questions explored: (1) cognitive, emotional and physical responses to online material and resources, and (2) preferred platform features and topics. Our findings suggest that many students find connection and mental 'relief' through online activities, but this relief is temporary and accompanied by experiences of social pressure, social anxiety, exacerbations of negative emotions and lost time/lost productivity. Males and females differed in online preferences and willingness to seek assistance for mental health online. Males were much more reluctant re: both online and direct assistance. While students expressed some reservations re: online mental health support , they were eager to engage with a platform that overcame identified obstacles. Students saw many advantages in accessing mental health resources online vs. in-person mental health “support”.

      Conclusion/Implications/Recommendations: We conclude that enhancing mental health online and encouraging adoption of mindfulness practices are interacting aims as students tend to procrastinate and waste time online, increasing stress/anxiety, and reducing academic performance. Conversely, mindfulness practices help reduce stress/anxiety and procrastination, and prepare for productive academic activity.

      140 Character Summary: Learning what university students want and need in an interactive Mindfulness Virtual Community (MVC) platform to support mental health

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