1. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, around 1/3rd of students accessed mental health services in university, which is similar to the proportion of students who experience symptoms of mental health disorders.

2. Furthermore, limited data suggested greater use of on-campus, rather than off-campus, resources.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Mental health disorders are prevalent among university students, however the utilization of services at universities is poorly understood on an international scale. Current studies have not compared the use of different mental health services by students when faced with various clinical presentations. As a result, the objective of the present study was to determine the proportion of students who use mental health services and how utilization differs across service type.

Of 7789 identified records, 44 (range n=15 to 730,785 participants) studies were included from various databases from 2000 to 2022. Studies were included if they measured the utilization of mental health services in adults studying at a university. Studies were excluded if not all participants were university students, participants under age 18 were included, sociodemographic or utilization data was impossible to extract, or the study was aimed at testing an intervention to address access to healthcare services. The review was performed using PRISMA guidelines. Risk of bias was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute appraisal checklist. Statistical analyses were performed using meta-regression and subgroup analyses. The primary outcome was the proportion of students who use mental health services when experiencing psychological distress.

The results demonstrated that approximately 1/3rd of students used mental health services while attending university, with the majority being outpatient services. Furthermore, services that offered a wide range of treatments were associated with greater use. There was also limited evidence demonstrating greater on-campus use of services compared to off-campus use. Despite these results, the study was limited by the inclusion of minimal studies outside the United States which may limit its generalizability to students in other countries. Nonetheless, the present study was the first to synthesize the evidence regarding the utilization of mental health services among university students and the variation between service type.

Click to read the study in International Journal of Mental Health Systems

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