Date of Award

Summer 6-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Daniel Capron, Ph.D

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Megan Renna, Ph.D

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Freddie Pastrana Rivera

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Melanie Leuty, Ph.D

Committee Member 4 School



Exposure to a traumatic event puts an individual at risk for subsequent psychological distress. Though trauma exposure is common in undergraduate students, college mental health services remain severely underutilized. One reason may be stigma associated with mental illness. The current study investigated the role of stigma on treatment seeking behaviors in trauma-exposed college students. Qualifying participants were randomly assigned to one of two stigma conditions. One week following measure completion, participants received an email offering a free, brief, self-guided intervention described with a stigmatizing label (“trauma symptoms”) in one condition, and as a broad problem (“stress”) in the other. It was hypothesized that students would be more likely to engage in the intervention when offered for “managing stress” than “managing trauma symptoms”. Additionally, it was hypothesized that self-reported stigma would be negatively related to participation, such that greater levels of stigma would predict lesser participation. Finally, it was hypothesized that demographic factors would influence participation, such that participants identifying as male, or non-White, would be less likely to participate. Results from the final sample of 165 trauma-exposed undergraduate students did not find support for these hypotheses, due to severely low participation in the emailed intervention. Though differences in treatment seeking behaviors were not evident in this study, significant patterns in treatment seeking interest did emerge. Results provide useful information regarding the underutilization of mental health services in college students, as well as the role of stigma and demographic factors. Findings from this study have several implications for future research directions and improving mental health treatment rates in college students.



Available for download on Thursday, August 01, 2024