Community psychology perspectives on student mental health

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By Miles Thompson

The 4th UK Community Psychology Festival is being held on the 23rd and 24th of September 2018 in the Hertford Theatre, Hertford. It follows the success of the 3rd festival, which was held at the Arnolfini in Bristol and was joint hosted by UWE’s Social Science Research Group.

Three members of UWE’s Psychological Sciences Research Group are curating a slot at festival number 4 titled: Community psychology perspectives on student mental health. In the festival spirit they want their session to be as interactive as possible and are asking all festival goers to participate in their session – before it takes place – whether they are able to attend the actual session or not. In short they invite people to read the extract below from their festival abstract and respond:

Mental health problems for students in UK higher education are receiving increased attention. Since 2008, some universities have experienced a threefold increase in demand for student support services. Student suicide has also been on the increase. A new document by Universities UK called “Step Change” has started to shape policy in this area.

You are a psychologist – interested in community psychology – teaching at a UK university. The university has concerns about growing student mental health issues. It is keen to tackle the problem by offering 1st year students a series of “resilience workshops” that focus on individual emotional regulation skills. What community psychology perspectives, evidence and even interventions might you suggest to complement or even replace the current suggestion?

Specifically, we invite festival goers to respond in advance of the session by either:
Posting a comment at the end of this blog post
Tweeting a response using the hashtag #commpsySMH
Or e-mailing: with their response.

We plan to spend the timetabled session considering both the responses to the scenario above and wondering together about how UK community psychology might contribute more widely to this area.

Remember, please respond to the above scenario before the actual session whether or not you are able to attend it. Thank you.

4 thoughts on “Community psychology perspectives on student mental health”

  1. I think we need to ask students what they need from us as an institution as educators as fellow human beings who have probably experienced some of the issues they are having/had
    It’s not them-students us-academy
    How can we listen to each other and hear what is being said

  2. Rather than positioning the individual as being responsible for managing their own wellbeing through ‘emotion regulation’ classes, I’d be considering creating a community hub where activism, advice and support is at the centre. Including, but not limited to:

    > Financial advice and support (tuition fees; hardship loans – especially for those who have no financial help from family / cannot return home during uni breaks for various reasons; a ‘jobs wall’ / recruitment agent renting a desk [with finances going back into the hub] to support students to access part-time work);

    > Activism around government / education policy (to engage with a community; give a sense of identity and empowerment through shared struggles / solutions);

    > Support – through discounted / free activities (linked to principles of behavioural activation, whilst acknowledging tight personal finances / limited time to plan for such things which often limit opportunities for this); drop-in or pre-arranged mental health support with a qualified mental health professional.

    A funded physical hub to encompass all of this to promote access, giving a sense of belonging to people and place, with access to key members of the university’s management structure in order to promote meaningful Participation and structural problem-solving.

    I feel that this would begin to address some of the factors which underpin mental health difficulties – including managing the transition of living away from home (and the financial stress of managing this); losing regular contact with attachment figures – and supporting students to build other relationships with each other; and promoting ‘resilience’ through addressing inequality / powerlessness.

  3. -Consult past/present students for recommendations
    -Encourage values of supporting each other to be resilient
    -Establish peer support / buddy system
    -Encourage the space for students to engage with weekly group support resilience/empowerment sessions. (average number of members to each group up for debate)
    -Expressive therapy group style sessions – art, theatre, music/singing/chanting or as already suggested dance.

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