The Experiences of Students with Mental Health Conditions in Higher Education

Ms Eva-Marie Seeto (). The Experiences of Students with Mental Health Conditions in Higher Education Professional Doctorate, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ms Eva-Marie Seeto
Thesis Title The Experiences of Students with Mental Health Conditions in Higher Education
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Professor Robert Bush
Professor John Lowe
Total pages 95
Total black and white pages 95
Abstract/Summary Over the past decade, both Australian and international literature has indicated that the number of students in higher education reporting mental health problems and complex support needs has been steadily increasing. Universities are supportive of these students and are able to address the many challenging aspects of academic requirements that may exacerbate the health concerns of students with serious mental health conditions through the provision of academic accommodations and inclusive structural systems at an institutional level. Under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), Disability Discrimination Act (1992), students are entitled to receive academic accommodations that counterbalance any functional disadvantage they may experience as the result of a disability. Flexibility in the learning environment provides greater inclusiveness for the whole student community. The potential pressures of exam environments, the stress of concurrent assignments, or difficulties encountered through interpersonal interactions, may be addressed through variations to assessment. It is only through gaining greater understanding of the direct experiences of students with mental health problems, however, that universities will be able to refine enabling strategies and develop essential supports that will allow students to participate fully in academic life and achieve their educational goals. Through the use of grounded theory methodology, this research investigated the experiences of twelve students with mental health conditions who were undertaking higher education on the Sunshine Coast in South-East Queensland. The project explored students’ lived experience of having mental health difficulties and the impact on their academic performance. It included the perceived level of support that students received, the quality of communication with education staff, and identified areas of unmet need. Overall, results reflected previously documented findings regarding the academic and social experiences of students with psychological disorders. While the barriers of perceived stigma and doubt could impede access to services for some students, participants generally described positive practical and emotional supports provided by the institution, and the challenges associated with managing the unpredictable nature of their mental health. The most significant finding identified from this research, was unmet need around peer support. Access to a peer mentoring or online support program specifically for students with mental health conditions was discussed by all participants. They strongly expressed a belief that the sharing of study skills, coping techniques and social engagement with peers would improve their understanding of, and functioning in, the academic environment. Further research into the practical considerations around peer provided pastoral support would enable development and assessment of future mentoring strategies and mentor training programs.
Keyword student mental health
higher education
peer support

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Created: Wed, 24 Nov 2010, 12:31:24 EST by Ms Eva-marie Seeto