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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Florida: As More Students Struggle with Mental Health Issues, One Professor is Recognized for Work in the Field

Dr. Rita DeBate, a University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH) professor, strives to make students more aware of the importance of mental health.

She recently won the Weiss Writing Prize for a mental health intervention she organized on the USF campus.

The Weiss Writing Prize is an honor awarded to the author of a publication focused on advancing mental health care among college students. It is presented by the American College Health Association (ACHA).

Dr. DeBate has been interested in mental health since before she even began her undergraduate education.

She started an intervention called “Mental Well-Being for Student Success” on campus about a year and a half ago. This intervention implemented a systems-thinking approach to better meet the mental health needs of the student population.

“If we truly want to improve the mental well-being of our students, it’s important that we think beyond just the counseling center,” said Dr. DeBate.

This systems-thinking approach aims to better connect different organizations and resources around campus to both each other and to students. For example, staff from the Counseling Center and Student Health Services worked with the marketing team to create a message about the importance of mental health that would solicit responses and action from students.

The approach attempted to increase the number of male students who seek help for any mental or emotional struggles they may be dealing with, which was the primary topic of the paper, titled “The Effects of Stigma on Determinants of Mental Health Help-Seeking Behaviors Among Male College Students: An Application of the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills Model,” that won Dr. DeBate the Weiss Prize.

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