Mental Health Navigation for College Students

Mental Health Navigation for College Students
May 14, 2021

A group of IFH members received the SSIHI Pilot Studies Award to address loneliness in college students using a navigational approach.

Jessica Borelli, PhD (lead PI)
Jocelyn Lai (co-I)
Zahra Mousavi (co-I)
Amir Rahmani, PhD (co- PI)
Nik Dutt, PhD (co-PI)
Harnessing The Power Of Positive Connections To Reduce Loneliness In College Students

Loneliness is the unpleasant feeling that can arise from reduced social connectedness with others. Loneliness has important implications for health and well-being, predicting greater risk for mortality, cognitive decline, depression, and suicidality. Emerging adulthood, the developmental phase spanning the years between 18 and 23, is a crucial developmental and transitional period, during which people explore their identities and grow in autonomy while simultaneously facing challenges in peer relationships, as well as contending with stressors in the domains of career, academics, and finances. This period is also a time in which individuals are most vulnerable for developing psychopathology, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Although the majority of research has focused on understanding and addressing loneliness among older adults, young adults experience greater feelings of loneliness than their middle-aged and older adult counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the psychological and health risks experienced by this population in particular, increasing their experiences of loneliness as their social outlets have been truncated. Thus, identifying ways to ameliorate loneliness within this population, and doing so in a way that fits within COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing, is a public health mandate. Relational Savoring is a brief, strengths-based, psychological intervention grounded in principles of positive psychology, mindfulness, and attachment theory –this intervention involves guiding people to deeply reflect on past, present, or anticipated moments of positive interactions with others and has been found to increase positive emotion, feelings of closeness, and relationship quality among young adults. The goal of the current pilot study is to examine the efficacy of mSavorUs, a mobile-version of relational savoring, delivered as a preventative intervention to reduce loneliness and improve health in college students. Participants will use the mHealth system mSavorUs tool over the course of a 4-week period while monitoring their whole-system health (sleep, physical activity, physiology, psychological well-being, and health behaviors). This integrative approach will use non-invasive smart device wearables, such as a smart ring and smart watch to continuously collect such data in addition to ecological momentary assessments. Through our work, we aim to contribute to our understanding of loneliness and health among emerging adults and establish feasibility and usefulness of a mHealth approach to addressing feelings of loneliness.