Anglia Ruskin University
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Academics’ perceptions and experiences of working with students with mental health problems: insights from across the UK higher education sector

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posted on 2023-08-30, 17:19 authored by Sara Spear, Yvette Morey, Tommy Van Steen
Mental health problems (MHPs) amongst university students are increasing, in the UK and internationally. Academic staff have a potentially important role in supporting students with MHPs, but the literature indicates that most lack the knowledge and skills to do so. Studies on academics’ experiences of working with students with MHPs have generally focused on one or two institutions/faculties, meaning there is a lack of understanding of any differences across the wider higher education sector. In order to address this gap, a mixed methods study involving a survey (N=130) and semi-structured interviews (N=11) was undertaken with academics in 27 institutions across the UK, divided into Russell Group, other pre-1992, and post-1992 universities, across 5 broad subject areas. Nearly all respondents had encountered student MHPs, but although awareness of student MHPs was high, preparedness to support these students was low. These findings were consistent across all types of institution and subject areas, and we therefore recommend that all academic staff should have compulsory basic training in mental health. Although the response rate does not allow us to generalise the findings to all UK universities, the findings indicate that all types of university and subject area face the same issues around student mental health. Our research also builds on studies of academics’ experiences of student MHPs in the US, Canada, and Australia, and offers insight for the higher education sector internationally. Overall this study emphasises that academic staff should be an integral part of any institution’s strategy for enhancing student mental health.



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Higher Education Research and Development




Taylor & Francis

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  • Accepted version


  • eng

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Faculty of Business & Law

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