Student mental health support: A qualitative evaluation of new well-being services at a UK university

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

*Corresponding author for this work

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

1 Citation (Scopus)


Increasing numbers of UK students now seek mental health support while at university. Clear evidence for the best configuration of student support services is lacking. Most service evaluations have focused on counselling – with little evaluation of low-intensity support services such as non-clinical mental health and well-being teams or student accommodation welfare support. This qualitative study addresses that gap, examining student and staff experiences of new well-being advisers in academic departments and halls of residence at one UK university in 2018, marking a step-change in welfare support delivery. Using reflexive thematic analysis with data collected in 40 focus groups and interviews approximately 18 months after service launch, five themes were identified: Trusted Friend; Joined Up Approach; Proactive versus Reactive; Belonging; and My University Cares. The well-being advisers offered timely, low-intensity support as an accessible, approachable addition to academic, clinical and online provision. However, evidence showed operational challenges such as data-sharing between academic, professional and support service staff. The volume of students seeking support also appeared to compromise resource intended for preventative and community-building work, particularly in student accommodation. Concerns remained for students who do not seek help, with findings underlining the importance of issues of belonging, connection and representation in relation to well-being support. Notably, this highly visible well-being investment appeared to shift a negative cultural narrative which was undermining student and staff confidence to one of greater reassurance of support. Our conclusions have implications for student support service configuration and emphasise the importance of a whole university well-being approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-387
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number4
Early online date28 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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


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