Improving mental health and wellbeing support for Scotland – Think Positive Research
Research by BSV Associates for the National Union of Students Scotland
Think Positive, funded by the Scottish Government, commissioned research to evaluate the effectiveness of student mental health support in Scotland and to support the FE and HE sectors to further develop appropriate practice in the delivery of mental health and wellbeing services to students.
It is believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland, covering both further and higher education students.
The key objectives of the research were:
- To identify the main causes and triggers of poor mental health and wellbeing amongst Scottish college and university students;
- To establish a clear picture of what services are on offer to students at their institutions, student experience and demand for these services;
- To identify best practice across colleges and universities.
The research included a survey of over 3,000 college and university students, alongside in-depth analysis of the mental health and wellbeing services of eight case-study institutions.
Some of the key findings of the research include:
- Almost half of students surveyed (49.9%) cited lack of money or financial pressures as negatively impacting on their mental health.
- Students are most likely to have concerns about mental health at the start of their studies with 72% citing their first year of study as a time when they had concerns about their mental health and wellbeing.
- Students cited a range of factors associated with study as impacting negatively on their mental health: almost half (48.7%) cited coping with course workload.
- Of those students surveyed who used a support service, institutional or external (e.g. NHS or third sector), more than half of respondents (59.6%) had to wait to access the support they needed. For those students who had to wait just over half (53.8%) waited more than a month, and 20.8% waited more than three months.
- Institutions that took part in the research reported the practice of ‘backfilling’ NHS services because of under-capacity in the health service.
- Around four times as many higher education (78.4%-81%) than further education students (19%-21.6%) were aware of mental health and wellbeing support available to them.
The research poses a series of recommendations for institutions, students’ associations and other sector bodies to help improve student mental health and wellbeing support in Scotland’s colleges and universities. Key recommendations address the factors negatively impacting student mental health and wellbeing, including making further improvements to student cost-of-living support, and embedding mental health and wellbeing in learning and teaching practice. The recommendations also look to improve the student experience of accessing mental health support by suggesting consideration is taken to improve waiting times for NHS services, ensuring equity of access to counselling services, and embedding mental health and wellbeing in learning and teaching practice.
The full findings and recommendations can be found in the research report or executive summary.