Mental Health Literacy, Beliefs and Demand for Mental Health Support among University Students

This paper assesses whether a mental health literacy intervention close the gap in the demand for mental health support among university students. Firstly, we develop a self-signalling model to derive testable implications about the students’ investments in mental health. Secondly, we test the model’s predictions in an incentivized survey experiment with 2,978 university students from one of the largest Dutch universities, which is broadly representative of the student body in the Netherlands. We document that the mental health literacy intervention does not significantly increase the WTP for a therapy app on average, but the effect is highly heterogeneous. The mental health literacy intervention increases the WTP for the app among the male students, and marginally for the international students. The effect is mostly driven by the fact that the intervention has increased the perceived effectiveness of the app among the male students. We show that the mental health literacy intervention affects how the students acquire information about the support services at the university. In particular, the students are more prone to acquire information about coaching services at the university than to acquire information about the university psychologist. The effect is mostly driven by the female students and by the international students.