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  1. Abstract Background

    Engineering students encounter high levels of stress, which may negatively impact their mental health. Nevertheless, engineering students who experience mental health distress are less likely than their peers to seek professional help, even when controlling for gender and race/ethnicity.

    Purpose

    We examined beliefs that undergraduate engineering students have about barriers and facilitators to seeking professional help for their mental health. We also sought to identify cultural and systemic factors within and beyond engineering that might affect help‐seeking. Together, these beliefs influence students' sense of personal agency around seeking mental health care.

    Method

    We implemented a pragmatic qualitative design that incorporated the integrated behavioral model to investigate engineering students' (N = 33) professional mental health help‐seeking beliefs. We used thematic analysis to analyze help‐seeking beliefs and perceived barriers and facilitators that students described during interviews.

    Results

    We identified four themes: Navigating the system impacts personal agency; sacrifices associated with help‐seeking act as a barrier; engineering culture acts as a barrier to help‐seeking; and student confidence in help‐seeking varies significantly. These themes portray the effect of perceived barriers and facilitators on students' personal agency for accessing mental health care. Our findings have implications for engineering departments and university counseling centers that want to minimize barriers to help‐seeking.

    Conclusions

    Engineering stakeholders must improve access to professional help for engineering students. Implementing changes to normalize help‐seeking behaviors, enhance personal agency, and facilitate engagement with mental health resources will create better conditions for engineers. Further research is necessary to understand how other beliefs (e.g., attitudes, perceived norms) inform the relationships between student mental health, professional help seeking, and engineering culture.

     
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  2. Abstract Background

    Engineering self‐efficacy, or the belief in one's own capabilities to complete engineering tasks, has been shown to predict greater motivation, academic performance, and retention of engineering students. Investigating the types of experiences that influence engineering students' self‐efficacy can reveal ways to support students in their undergraduate engineering programs.

    Purpose/Hypothesis(es)

    The purpose of this study was to qualitatively examine how undergraduate engineering students describe the sources of their engineering self‐efficacy and whether patterns in students' responses differed by gender.

    Design/Method

    Participants (N = 654) were undergraduate engineering students attending two public, land‐grant universities in the U.S. Open‐ended survey questions were used to identify the events, social experiences, and emotions that students described as relevant to their engineering self‐efficacy. Chi‐square analyses were used to investigate whether response patterns varied by gender.

    Results

    Students described enactive performances as their most salient source of self‐efficacy, but interesting insights also emerged about how engineering students draw from social and emotional experiences when developing their self‐efficacy. Women more often referred to social sources of self‐efficacy and reported fewer positive emotions than did men.

    Conclusion

    Findings suggest ways that educators can provide more targeted opportunities for students to develop their self‐efficacy in engineering.

     
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