The Mental Health of Australian University Students: Issues, Correlates, and Promotion

Helen Stallman (2012). The Mental Health of Australian University Students: Issues, Correlates, and Promotion PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Helen Stallman
Thesis Title The Mental Health of Australian University Students: Issues, Correlates, and Promotion
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Alan Ralph
Professor Matt Sanders
Total pages 156
Total black and white pages 156
Language eng
Subjects 139999 Education not elsewhere classified
111714 Mental Health
Abstract/Summary This thesis presents a systematic program of research to understand and promote the mental health of Australian university students. It comprises three sections. The studies in Section 1 investigate the mental health of Australian university students. Section 2 focuses on the measurement of constructs related to the mental health of students. Section 3 consists of three interventions developed to promote the mental health and wellbeing of Australian tertiary students. Section 1 comprises five studies exploring the mental health of university students. Chapter 2 reports the prevalence of psychological distress in a university health service. This study showed that 50% of students had elevated levels of distress. Chapter 3 is a follow-up study of three health services to clarify whether the high levels of distress found in Study 1 were characteristic of a single university health service or typical of Australian university health services. This study showed similar results to Study 1 suggesting that around half of all students attending university health services have elevated levels of distress, with very little difference between students surveyed towards the end of the academic year in Study 1 and at the beginning of the year in this study. While there is a greater prevalence of distress in patients attending GP clinics in the community, the rates were higher in university clinics. Chapter 4 aimed to explore whether the prevalence rates found in university health services were similar to the general university population. This study used a convenience sample of 6449 students from three universities. This study also compared the rates of distress compared with data from the Australian National Mental Health survey data. Chapter 5 is a qualitative study investigating the issues that most affect the wellbeing of international students studying in Australia. Section 1 concludes with a study investigating the activities and challenges of counselling services in Australia and New Zealand in supporting the mental health of students. University has a number of distinguishing features that may distinguish it and its students from other populations. Section 2 comprises four studies examining four correlates of distress in university students - stress, perfectionism, coping self-efficacy, and competition. Chapter 7 describes the development and evaluation of the University Stress Scale (USS). The USS provides researchers and clinicians working with university students with a domain approach to assessing stress, which can guide interventions and appropriate referrals. Chapter 8 evaluates the factor structure of the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale in a university student sample. Chapter 9 reports a study on the relationship between perfectionism, coping self-efficacy, and student distress. Chapter 10 explores staff and student perceptions of the role competition plays in the success and distress of law students. The high levels of distress reported in studies in this thesis and confirmed with other Australian and international research provides a strong argument for a prevention approach to improve the wellbeing and resilience of university students. Universal interventions target the entire population of university students with the aim of preventing the development of mental health problems. A major component of this thesis was the development of an integrated group of universal interventions to improve student wellbeing and resilience. Staying on Track, The Learning Thermometer, and thedesk. These interventions are described in Section 3. The underlying principle for these interventions is to integrate teaching, learning, support, and wellbeing to provide a seamless experience for students. Relatively few students access support services even when they need them. To make a population impact on wellbeing and resilience, interventions need to be embedded within the curriculum and be seen as relevant to all students who want to be successful, rather than just those with mental health problems. To be successful, such an approach needs to maximise limited resources, while not creating additional burdens on academic and support staff. Staying on Track does this by focussing on providing information at a time when it is most relevant to students. The Learning Thermometer and thedesk are web-based interventions that require minimal staff input, but link students with supports and resources when needed. The Discussion and Conclusion summarises the work within this thesis and situates it within the broader context of tertiary education in Australia. It highlights some of the current challenges the sector is experiencing related to student wellbeing and possible directions for future research and intervention.
Keyword university students
mental health
wellbeing
Universal Interventions
internet interventions
measurement development
Perfectionism

 
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Created: Thu, 21 Jun 2012, 10:02:20 EST by Helen Stallman on behalf of Library - Information Access Service