Lifetime and 12-month treatment for mental disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among first year college students

WHO WMH-ICS Collaborators, Ronny BRUFFAERTS*, Philippe MORTIER, Randy P. AUERBACH, Jordi ALONSO, Alicia E. HERMOSILLO DE LA TORRE, Pim CUIJPERS, Koen DEMYTTENAERE, David D. EBERT, Jennifer Greif GREEN, Penelope HASKING, Dan J. STEIN, Edel ENNIS, Matthew K. NOCK, Stephanie PINDER-AMAKER, Nancy A. SAMPSON, Gemma VILAGUT, Alan M. ZASLAVSKY, Ronald C. KESSLER, Oi Ling SIU (Collaborator)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Mental disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) are common and burdensome among college students. Although available evidence suggests that only a small proportion of the students with these conditions receive treatment, broad-based data on patterns of treatment are lacking. The aim of this study is to examine the receipt of mental health treatment among college students cross-nationally. 

Methods: Web-based self-report surveys were obtained from 13,984 first year students from 19 colleges in eight countries across the world as part of the World Health Organization's World Mental Health–International College Student Initiative. The survey assessed lifetime and 12-month common mental disorders/STB and treatment of these conditions. 

Results: Lifetime and 12-month treatment rates were very low, with estimates of 25.3–36.3% for mental disorders and 29.5–36.1% for STB. Treatment was positively associated with STB severity. However, even among severe cases, lifetime and 12-month treatment rates were never higher than 60.0% and 45.1%, respectively. 

Conclusions: High unmet need for treatment of mental disorders and STB exists among college students. In order to resolve the problem of high unmet need, a reallocation of resources may focus on innovative, low-threshold, inexpensive, and scalable interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1764
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research
Issue number2
Early online date20 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Prof. SIU Oi-ling is one of the WHO WMH-ICS Collaborators


  • affective disorders
  • anxiety
  • college students
  • health service
  • suicide


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