College can be stressful for students. It can be their first time away from home, living on their own. Academic demands are often much greater than what they experienced in high school. And they are often in a much larger pond than they’ve ever been in before. It’s easy for stress to become a problem, and it’s just as easy for a student with problems to fall between the cracks of campus services.
That’s why Drexel University is experimenting with walk-up kiosks that provide a quick mental health check-up. It runs a screening application that asks a series of questions, and then assesses the likelihood that the subject is experiencing problems that would warrant some professional help. The school is placing kiosks in the student Recreation Center and in a family health services center that serves the community. The designers created an open kiosk rather than one in an enclosure that would provide more privacy. The reasoning was that they did not want to add to the stigma of mental health issues as something that needs to be addressed in secret.
The software screens for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and eating disorders. It does not provide a diagnosis, but does encourage subjects to seek additional support if warranted. A list of local and national resources are provided as part of the report. And even if the program does not identify any problems, it takes a cautious approach: “This screening is not a substitute for a clinical evaluation and cannot provide an actual diagnosis. If you are still concerned and think you may need help, please contact a health professional for more information and a complete evaluation.” The hope is that the pilot program can rapidly expand to more kiosks across the campus; the screening software is also available online where students can access it at any time.