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Keywords:

  • college;
  • psychiatric medication;
  • mental health services;
  • adolescence;
  • psychological anthropology

Abstract

Research has established that a large minority of college students today are taking psychiatric medications and that college mental health services are overwhelmed by this relatively recent trend. Little is known about the subjective experience of these college students in regard to their medications and utilizations of services as they transition from home to a peer-based environment during a key developmental moment in the transition to adulthood. In this article we argue that theory and methods from psychological anthropology are ripe to guide data collection in this area. We provide data from a longitudinal mixed-methods pilot study with residential college students to argue that policy and practice regarding college mental health and psychiatric medication can benefit substantially from insights gained through psychological anthropology. In particular, college administrators, counseling and health centers, and their professional organizations can benefit from research examining student experience and meaning making in particular institutional and community settings.