ChE Seminar Series: Sarah Wilson, Ph.D.

Date(s) - 02/13/2024
9:00 am - 10:00 am

HPNP 1404


Title: Understanding Barriers to Mental Health Related Help-Seeking in Undergraduate Engineers

Sarah Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Chemical and Materials Engineering
University of Kentucky


The prevalence of mental health disorders on college campuses is of increasing concern. Within engineering, there has been an increase in the amount of research conducted on characterizing student mental health and understanding the influence of engineering culture on mental wellness. Research has shown that engineering students in mental health distress are less likely to have received professional help compared to their peers. This identifies a treatment gap for engineering students, meaning that only a portion of those in mental health distress are seeking professional treatment. Addressing the treatment gap can improve the prognosis of mental health problems and reduce progression to more chronic or severe disorders. Through this talk, I will present results of both qualitative and quantitative research studies aimed at better understanding the beliefs that engineering students have about seeking help for a mental health concern. In particular, I will discuss barriers and facilitators to help-seeking including challenges in navigating the mental healthcare system, the perception that help-seeking is a sacrifice of time and academics, and the importance of mental health culture in engineering. Further, I will talk about the influence of engineering student, faculty and staff messaging on students’ beliefs about help seeking. Results of this work will provide guidance for intervention development to improve mental health related help-seeking in undergraduate engineering students.


Dr. Sarah Wilson is an Assistant Professor in Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Kentucky. She is the director of the Wilson Research Group, where she works to understand and improve mental health in engineering. She defines mental health as not just the absence of mental illness but a mental state in which engineers can effectively cope with stress, realize their potential, and contribute to society. She aims to develop and implement interventions to improve mental health help seeking in undergraduate engineering students and has co-developed a workshop on supporting student mental health, which has been offered internationally.