Understanding mental distress, coping, help-seeking behaviours and substance abuse of Psychology students.
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Mental distress and substance use among university students is a global concern, with many using ineffective coping strategies and showing reluctance to help-seeking. There is however a paucity of research on mental distress and substance use among adolescents and young adults, within the context of South Africa. The aim of this study was to understand the mental distress, coping, help-seeking behaviours, and substance use of psychology students. This study consisted of 200 psychology students within the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, using a convenience sampling method to recruit all participants. Various statistical analyses such as frequency analyses, reliability analyses, descriptive statistics, a One-Way ANOVA analysis, a T-test analysis, Chi-square analyses, correlation analyses, and backward multiple regression analyses were performed. The results from the analyses indicated that there was a high prevalence of mental distress and alcohol use among these students. Peer and parental alcohol use were found to be related to student’s alcohol use. Students were also found to use negative coping behaviours in dealing with their distress. Students who used substances were also more likely to employ negative coping behaviours, with current cigarette use, current alcohol use, and current drug use being associated with negative coping. Male students reported more self-stigma of seeking help for their distress. Most of the results were consistent with the results obtained from past research. The findings from this study are useful in creating awareness on the prevalence of mental distress and substance use among South African university students being a great concern. It also creates awareness on the types of coping and help-seeking behaviours (governed by self-stigma of seeking help) employed by these students. These findings not only aid our understanding of mental distress, coping, help-seeking and substance use among university students in South Africa, but also aims to alter the trajectory of mental distress, substance use, coping and help-seeking among South African university students. The findings of this study are also useful in assisting in future preventative measures and interventions that could be useful in curbing this growing burden of mental distress and substance use and promoting effective coping and help-seeking behaviours among South African university students.