Objective: Examine campus experiences and relationships of college students with mental illnesses compared to general student norms using the College Student Experiences Questionnaire to understand potential sources of distress and retention issues. Participants: Responses were obtained from 449 former and current students with mental illnesses from more than 300 colleges and universities around the country. Methods: Participants completed an online survey available from July 2005 to July 2006. Results: Multivariate analysis of variance and t test results indicate that college students with mental illnesses report less engagement on campus and poorer relationships, and that these factors were associated with lower graduation rates. Students reporting they were treated differently “most of the time” because of a mental illness had the lowest levels of engagement and poorest relationships. Conclusions: More attention is needed to developing interventions that enhance social functioning and engagement and address stigma on campus in order to reduce distress and enhance retention.
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