Caroline Brackette, Mercer University – Mental Health and College Satisfaction

Mental health disabilities can be hidden, but still have a large effect on college students’ satisfaction on campuses.

Caroline Brackette, associate professor in the college of health professions at Mercer University, explains.

Dr. Caroline Brackette is a licensed professional counselor and has clinical experience working with a diverse population of clients across the mental health continuum in a variety of clinical settings. She specializes in the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat anxiety, address interpersonal relationship issues, and assist clients with successfully developing and implementing mental skills intervention plans. Her teaching and research is focused on leadership and advocacy, counseling skills and techniques, cultural competency, mental skills in performance and non-performance situations, and the scholarship of teaching.

Mental Health and College Satisfaction

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Students with mental health disabilities are at a higher risk to drop out of college. Understanding factors that influence their satisfaction with higher education can enhance retention efforts. My research found that students diagnosed with mental health disabilities had lower levels of satisfaction with college compared to peers who identify as having no disability. However, they reported higher satisfaction than peers diagnosed with other types of disabilities. Study participants indicated having a “hidden disability” as the major factor for their higher level of satisfaction. They saw the ability to refrain from disclosing their mental health diagnosis as an advantage over students with visible disabilities and mobility impairments.

Participants reported being reluctant to disclose their mental health diagnosis due to fear of being treated differently. They also noted that people are uncomfortable with mental illness. Additional factors of influence included negative and positive experiences with professors related to academic accommodations. Negative experiences involved professors who either did not understand the rationale for an accommodation or did not work with the student to accommodate their disability. Although reported as the exception, such interactions still impacted the way participants viewed their college experience.

Overall, participants reported they were satisfied with academic advising, support services, and instructional effectiveness. They reported being neutral on campus responsiveness to diverse populations and concern for individuals.

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