MTV isn't just broadcasting music videos and reruns of The Real World anymore. In November, its sister network aimed at college campuses—mtvU—began a new campaign called "Half of Us," which provides information and support to students attending colleges across the country. The network teamed up with The Jed Foundation, the leading nonprofit college suicide prevention group. To provide evidence of the mental health difficulties that undergraduates face, mtvU conducted a study, "2006 mtvU College Mental Health Study: Stress, Depression, Stigma & Students," in which 503 full-time students aged 18 to 24 years were interviewed. The sample was chosen to reflect a cross section of the US undergraduate population, with attention paid to balancing age, sex, geographic location, and ethnicity.
The study found that college seniors were nearly 3 times more likely than college freshman to have considered suicide; 1 in 5 seniors (21%) considered suicide, whereas only 8% of freshmen had thoughts about taking their own life. Embarrassment was the number one reason students said they would not want to seek treatment for a mental health disorder, and even though 49% said they would encourage a friend to seek counseling, 77% said they would not want their friends to know if they were seeking help for emotional issues. Only 22% of students reported that they would be likely to seek mental health help if needed.
The campaign derived its name from the American College Health Association's findings that nearly half of all college students surveyed reported feeling depressed to the point that they could not function. According to a press release issued by MTV Networks, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students in the country. The campaign includes public service announcements on mtvU that profile students dealing with emotional disorders and stigma; canvassing campuses nationwide to provide information to students; and a Web site (www.halfofus.com) with self-evaluation screening tools and direct resources to mental health facilities on campuses, as well as nationwide.