Student Mental Health and Well-being: Perspectives from Students from Widening Participation Backgrounds and their Implications for University Approaches
Good mental health and resilience is fundamental to our physical health, relationships, education, work and can help us to achieve our potential. Sadly, in line with the national picture, the numbers of students reporting mental health issues in the UK is on the rise. An analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency records conducted in 2015 for HEFCE found an increase from 8,000 students reporting a mental health problem in 2008-09, to nearly 18,000 in 2012-13 (IES, 2015). The increases over the same timeframe were a little over 50% higher for more selective institutions compared with those with lower entry requirements (IES, 2015). However, these figures still represent a minority of the student population (1.4% in 2012-13). However, when students are surveyed directly using measures of well-being and mental health, studies suggest that anywhere between 20% to 33% of the student population report some form of mental health issue (YouGov, 2016; Kerr, 2013; Waite and Braidwood, 2016; Bewick, 2008).
In 2017, I was commissioned by a leading UK University to look specifically at the experiences of students from Widening Participation backgrounds in relation to mental health and wellbeing. The work included:
- A review of the key literature and institutional strategies pertaining to Student mental health and wellbeing in UK Higher Education;
- Interviews and focus groups with students from a widening participation background exploring aspects of belonging, wellbeing, mental health and student support services;
- Producing a draft framework for a University-Wide Approach to Supporting Student Mental Health and Well-being.
The report is not available for wider circulation, but building on this project I have recently undertaken an evaluation of a Sporting Memories Programme which aims to support positive wellbeing in older people living with dementia, depression and loneliness.