Ending Mental Health Stigma & Promoting Mental Health Among Rural Nebraska College and University Students

Teaching & Engagement, 2017


The growing shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas, alongside the rising number of rural college and university students who experience mental health difficulties, calls for a comprehensive public health approach to addressing underlying causes of mental illness and related stigma. It also calls for a focus on equipping students with resiliency skills that lay the foundation for growing strong and healthy minds. In collaboration with faculty and students at Wayne State College, the team seeks to develop and implement a promising mental health promotion curriculum aimed at addressing stigma and alleviating mental health difficulties among college and university students in Nebraska through civic engagement, health education and advocacy.


According to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, suicide is the leading cause of death among college and university students in the United States and is the 11th leading cause of death in Nebraska. In 2014, 1 in 6 Nebraska adults reported a diagnosis of depression, and 1 in 12 reported mental illness.

Faced with these staggering statistics, the team at Wayne State College is scheduled to hold four forums funded by RFI and presented by UNMC’s Rural Health Education Network (REHN), in cooperation with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) and the college’s student chapter of ActiveMinds. During winter 2017, more than 30 Wayne State College students from 17 different majors developed curriculum content and a discussion guide that will be promoted to mental health student chapters at colleges and universities across the state.

Nearly 60 Wayne State College students and faculty members participated in the first forum, held on Mar. 28, 2018, which was geared to raise awareness and generate discussion around mental health. The next forum is scheduled for fall 2018. These forums will help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, encourage people to seek help and provide meaningful and relevant solutions to address mental health difficulties experienced by college and university students.

Project Team



Media Coverage


Contact: Sonja Tutsch, sonja.tutsch@unmc.edu