Late childhood to early adulthood is a vulnerable period for the onset of long-term physical and mental health conditions. It is also a period of increased risk for the development of harmful health behaviours. In addition, this period is marked by significant life changes. These include the transition from child and adolescent to adult health services, moving out of home for the first time, and going to university or beginning employment. It is for these reasons that we, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, have developed a project dedicated to improving the health of young people.
The University of Worcester 'Suicide Safer Project' launched a HE Student Suicide Prevention Community of Practice (CoP) hosted at University of Worcester Arena last Thursday September 26th 2019. A CoP acts as a knowledge exchange and development hub bringing together people with a shared interest in preventing student suicide to provide an opportunity to learn together and from each other. Its aims are to develop and support practice, showcase and drive innovation and address sector challenges through collaboration. The CoP is designed to encourage participants to connect, seek support and advice, learn from each other and share best practice, as well as hearing about training, research, policy and practice developments to help grow suicide prevention practice development across HE institutions.
Unified: a digital solution to reduce referral time towards mental health services in higher education institutions
My research for the past year has been focused on the student support services at Universities across the UK, and the systems they operate upon. Specifically, I have been researching the waiting times between students applying for help, and their first face-to-face appointment. The original focus of my research was in to the accessibility of services, and the ease of application. I have co-founded a student health company called Unified, having been accepted on to We Are Nova’s start up school. I am developing a digital solution which higher education institutions can implement, to reduce the processing and referral time for services which are under increasingly high demand on a national scale
With rising attrition and declining student mental health, peer support is a growing area of interest for many higher education institutions. Despite being a readily used term, its meaning differs according to the institution running the programme, making it difficult to share best practice in the sector. The aim of this work is to create a shared language and understanding of peer support so that universities can improve their peer support structures in a consistent and strategic way.
Many factors suggested as causing student mental distress (like the transition from home/school to university) have been true for generations of students, so are unlikely to explain why reported distress has increased.
That’s why, in our research, we’re exploring what has changed in young people’s lives that might explain the increase. We’re focusing in particular on what is happening to young people before they go to university – and would welcome any feedback on this from fellow researchers.
Student mental health, stress and medically unexplained symptoms: The BodyMind Approach® for cultivating mental health and wellbeing in higher education institutes
Students in higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK are increasingly suffering excessive stress and/or mental health difficulties. Medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) are chronic bodily symptoms for which tests and scans return without a diagnosis. Conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, IBS etc. mostly affect young people, non-native speakers and women. All these populations are found in high numbers in HEIs. It is acknowledged chronic stress can lead to, or exacerbate, mental health difficulties and/or MUS. Sometimes MUS appear before any mental health issue although frequently MUS is associated with anxiety and depression.
Mind will soon be launching an exciting new pilot programme with 10 Universities across England and Wale. This programme will see local Minds deliver tried and tested models of building mental health literacy, peer support, and resilience, to prevent mental health problems before they arise.
In the next two years they will have a variety of opportunities (paid and voluntary) to get involved in designing, developing and reviewing our programme content and to share your experiences of mental health at university.
Mind will soon be launching an exciting pilot programme to support mental health at universities – working across the university student body, the higher education workforce, and with universities as employers.
In the next two years they will have a variety of opportunities (paid and voluntary) to get involved in designing, developing and reviewing their programme content and to share your experiences
Overview of the project
Recent research in Europe and Australia has drawn significant attention to the increased prevalence of psychological distress (a commonly used indicator for mental health) in PhD students. Evidence shows that PhD students experience higher levels of stress compared with undergraduate students and the general population. This leads to increased withdrawal rates, longer completion times and the risk of longer term effects on mental health and wellbeing. Whilst the types of challenges that PhD students face have been identified, very little is known about how these vary across the student journey and this makes it difficult to design appropriate interventions.
Book-ended by puberty and culturally defined adult roles, it is now argued that adolescence extends from age 10 to age 24. Consequently, higher education institutions must take into account that the majority (88% in 2017/2018) (Higher Education Authority, 2018) of their undergraduate students are still adolescents, with cognitive, social, emotional and self-regulatory capacities that are not yet fully mature. However, the role of “adult learner” is typically conferred on third-level students, requiring them to be organised, motivated and largely self-directed in their studies, as well as having greater responsibility for managing their own finances, leisure activities and self-care, including meal preparation and sleep, all of this within a socio-cultural environment that offers less external regulation than ever before.
We are using this blog to help connect stakeholders across Higher Education interested in student mental health. If you have a project you are working on or an idea you'd like to develop, why not write your own blog post for us?