Community participation needed in Tusculum University study about the stigma associated with mental health services

GREENEVILLE – Representatives of the Tusculum University Psychology Department seek community volunteers to participate in a study exploring the stigma associated with mental health services.

Avery Carper

Tusculum student Avery Carper, a psychology major, is conducting the study as a Ledford Scholar of the Appalachian College Association under the supervision of Dr. Kate Smith, associate professor, and Dr. Hollie Pellosmaa, assistant professor. Participants in the study fill out a multidimensional survey that takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Anyone older than 18 is eligible to participate, but the Psychology Department encourages current members of the military to complete the survey. Interested community members can access the survey at Participants are entered into a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift card.

“We welcome the community’s participation in this valuable study as we examine a critical issue in today’s society,” Dr. Smith said. “Overall, we hope to discover more about the current usage and stigma associated with mental health services. These potential results could not only identify vulnerable populations but hopefully could also be used to improve the quality of life in the Appalachian region and other parts of the country in regard to mental health care. We assure participants that their personal information will be protected, and we thank them for their support of this important endeavor.”

The purpose of Carper’s study is to identify potential demographic differences in those who are currently using, or have a history of using, mental health services. Additionally, this study will examine factors associated with the general stigma and self-stigma associated with the use of these services.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing said 31% of Americans have worried about others judging them after disclosing they have sought mental health services. Similarly, 21% of Americans have even lied to avoid telling people they were seeking mental health services, the organization said.

The National Institute of Mental Health reported in 2022 that only 46 percent of U.S. residents who were living with mental illness in 2020 received care for it. Carper said the rate of people seeking care has risen since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic but that a large percentage of Americans remains untreated.

“While steady improvement has occurred over the years, Appalachia is still considered a vulnerable region,” Carper said. “Rates of depression and suicide are higher in the region than the national rate. Additionally, the number of mental health providers in Appalachia is around 35% below the national average. It is especially important to determine if vulnerable groups, such as people from the Appalachian region, are underutilizing services.”

The Ledford Scholars program provides stipends for students wishing to participate in undergraduate summer research. At the completion of her research, Carper will make a presentation on campus about the outcomes of her study and submit a final project report to the ACA in the fall semester.

Anyone with questions can call Dr. Pellosmaa at 423-636-7300 ext. 5013 or Dr. Smith at 423-636-7300 ext. 5440. Further information about the university is available at