Investigating changes in student mental health and help-seeking behaviour after the introduction of new well-being support services at a UK university

Jacks Bennett*, Claire M A Haworth , Judi L Kidger, Jon E Heron, Myles-Jay Linton, David J Gunnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Background
Growing numbers of students now seek mental health support from their higher education providers. In response, a number of universities have invested in non-clinical well-being services, but there have been few evaluations of these. This research addresses a critical gap in the existing literature.

Aims
This study examined the impact of introducing non-clinical well-being advisers on student mental health and help-seeking behaviour at a large UK university.

Method
Survey data collected pre–post service introduction in 2018 (n = 5562) and 2019 (n = 2637) measured prevalence of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7), and low mental well-being (Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale), alongside student support-seeking behaviour. Logistic regression models investigated changes in outcome measures. Administrative data (2014–2020) were used to investigate corresponding trends in antidepressant prescribing at the onsite health service, student counselling referrals and course withdrawal rates.

Results
Adjusted models suggested reductions in students’ levels of anxiety (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.77–0.96) and low well-being (odds ratio 0.84, 95% CI 0.75–0.94) in 2019, but not depression symptoms (odds ratio 1.05, 95% CI 0.93–1.17). Statistical evidence showed reduced student counselling referrals, with antidepressant prescribing and course withdrawal rates levelling off. Student perception of the availability and accessibility of university support improved.

Conclusions
Our findings suggest a non-clinical well-being service model may improve student perception of support, influence overall levels of anxiety and low well-being, and reduce clinical need. The current study was only able to examine changes over the short term, and a longer follow-up is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere121
Number of pages10
JournalBJPsych Open
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Structured keywords

  • Health and Wellbeing (Psychological Science)

Keywords

  • University
  • mental health
  • well-being
  • student
  • support services

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