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Evaluation of a Behavioral Self-care Intervention Administered through a Massive Open Online Course

Marney A. White, Arvind Venkataraman, Ashley Roehrig & Hope S. Whelan

ajhe cover July August 2021

In recent years, an epidemic of mental health problems has been identified among university and professional school students. Research in this area has identified multiple potential lifestyle or behavioral risk factors that could underly increased rates in mental illnesses, such as insufficient sleep, poor nutrition, financial strain, reductions in physical activity, and substance misuse.

The increase in mental health needs among students reflects increasing needs in the population at large. In the United States of America, nearly one in five (51.5 million) adults live with a mental illness.8 Nearly half (49.5%) of all adolescents aged 13–18 years suffer or have suffered from mental illness. From 2000–2019, depressive disorders and self-harm ranked in the top ten causes of disability-adjusted life years. Further, in 2019, 10% of the global disease burden was attributable to mental disorders.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the disease and to mitigation activities, including social distancing and stay-at-home orders, increasing the global burden of mental disorders. Symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders increased in the United States of America from April-June 2020 at a significantly higher rate than the same period in 2019. Per this CDC survey, 40.9% of 5,412 adults reported at least one adverse mental health condition in 2020. This trend has been documented globally as well; a study of 1210 adults in China reported that 54.7% of respondents rated the psychological impact of COVID-19 as moderate or severe. Further, the pandemic has disrupted the delivery of mental health care worldwide. The WHO reports that the pandemic has disrupted or halted mental health services in 93% of countries, underscoring the need for new strategies and preventative interventions to improve mental health outcomes.

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