Raising Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education

 

Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi, mental health nurse and final year Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) mental health and wellbeing student who started the UK’s first student-led campaign to Raise Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education has published The RAMHHE Research Activity Model; the first research model by a mental health nurse with the aim to explore the meaning and understanding of mental health among university students. Josephine states that as a mental health nurse, PhD student and lecturer, she is very concerned about the absence of a non-clinical pedagogical model for exploring the meaning and understanding of mental health among university students.  The RAMHHE Research Activity Model has been published online ahead of print in Nurse Educator.

https://journals.lww.com/nurseeducatoronline/Citation/publishahead/Raising_Awareness_of_Mental_Health_in_Higher.99458.aspx.

 

Josephine states that the RAMHHE Research Activity Model is an explorative student-centred pedagogical research model that utilises qualitative methods of interviews and focus group discussions to ask four questions including: (1) What is mental health? (2) Who would you speak to about your mental health? (3) How is mental health viewed in your community, and (4) How can we support students' mental health? The first question will provide an understanding of the student's definition of mental health and if it differs from the educator's definition; the second question will support a range of referral pathways for students. The third question is useful for understanding the varied meanings of mental health among students from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds because students may not seek help if their culture or religion does not recognize mental health. The final question encourages an all-university dialogue on how to support students with mental health conditions.

 

Relevance

 

Regardless of the extensive data on the increasing number of students who report mental health, there remains scarcity in research models for exploring student’s views of mental health. Thus, due to these undisputable increase in the reports of mental health experiences among university students, The RAMHHE Research Activity Model makes a timely contribution to the existing literature on the mental health of university students. Mental health is not unique to only university students so Josephine adds that The RAMHHE Research Activity Model is a universal model that can be applied in all settings where people are seeking to explore the meaning and understanding of mental health.

 

Josephine stresses the need for provision of meaningful and participatory research activity for students as fundamental for enabling conversations about and around mental health among university students. The RAMHHE Research Activity aims to maximise the potential for non-hierarchical and collaborative dialogue between students and staff on the issue of mental health through a problem-based learning approach. More importantly, RAMHHE Research Activity will prompt a deeper understanding of the diverse mental health experiences among university students and prompt the development of ethically informed mental health policies with the aim to positively impact on student access, retention, attainment and progression outcomes. Simply put, Josephine adds that ‘we cannot understand the students understanding of mental health until we understand their misunderstanding.’

 

Research Process

to seek ethics approval from the ethics committee at the university when conducting research with the RAMHHE Research Activity Model because some educators might want to conduct the research to gather data for information purposes only. Therefore, ethical consideration will depend on how the data will be used. The RAMHHE Activity facilitator can include different data collection methods such as individual questions, interviews, focus group discussions, taking photographs of the students when they are working in groups and video recording the research process. When planning The RAMHHE Research Activity, it is important that the facilitator collaborates with all the stakeholders within the university including students, academic and non-academic staff to promote an all-university collective dialogue on mental health. There should be at least two people per activity so that they can support students who may become distressed, and to make the research process manageable.

 

 

 

 

Once all the data has been collected, the facilitators must thank the students for their contribution, distribute information leaflets about where students can seek help and support for their mental health and ensure that students are not distressed before leaving the class. An alternative end to RAMHHE Research Activity can be a lecture on the signs and symptoms of mental health and where to seek help. RAMHHE Research Activity facilitators should also invite students to take part in the data analysis and writing up of the findings. It is important to acknowledge the students who take part in the research process as contributors or co-authors in all publications.

 

Expected Impact and Implication for Future Research

 

Josephine believes that The RAMHHE Research Activity could be an invaluable opportunity for an all-university conversation on the issue of mental health, provide empirical findings on the meaning and understanding of mental health among university students, and contribute to the global evidence base on student mental health. enable the inclusion of the student’s voice in the development, implementation More importantly, Josephine propose that The RAMHHE Research Activity will prompt universities to adopt a widening participation approach of problem-solving by including ‘the voices of students’ and involving students in the development, implementation and evaluation of student-informed policy decisions and mental health interventions with a long term expected outcome to embed mental health into the curriculum.

Josephine recommends that RAMHHE Research Activity facilitators share the findings with students, academic and non-academic staff members, the health and wellbeing team, university-wide student services. She also recommends the publication of findings in accessible and relevant journals to contribute to the research evidence on student mental health, and support the Research Excellent Framework (REF), Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). Therefore, Josephine is calling on lecturers and educators within higher education to join the conversation on student mental health by collaborating with their students to conduct the RAMHHE research during lectures.

 

 Josephine hopes that the RAMHHE Research Activity Model will benefit future research and practices through:

1.   Help to provide invaluable insight into the experiences of mental health    among university students.

2.   Increase in help-seeking behaviour among university students.

3.   Provide significant data that will assist Health and Wellbeing Teams to develop student-led mental health interventions. 

4.   Provide an opportunity for academic and support staff to engage in collective dialogue with students on the issue of mental health.

5.   Drive improvements in teaching and learning quality, learning resources, academic support, and in embedding mental health into the curriculum.

6.   Improve student experience, retention and attainment, and contribute to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) ranking

 

Finally, Josephine suggests that as universities prepare for the next academic year, they can embed mental health into the curriculum if lecturers and educators include one day research activity day in their curriculum to collaboration with students, using the RAMHHE Research Activity Model to explore the meaning and understanding of mental health among their students. This will provide the lecturer/tutor/educator with a direct understanding of student's views, enable an informal but effective bottom-up process of embedding mental health into the curriculum, and contribute to  future RAMHHE Big Data on student mental health.

 

Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi is a final year Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) PhD Mental Health and Wellbeing Student at the University of Nottingham. Josephine can be contacted via: josephine.bardi@nottingham.ac.uk, https://twitter.com/JoBardi,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi is a qualified mental health practitioner, third year Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) PhD student on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Pathway at the Unviersity of Nottingham, Associate Staff at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Part-Time Lecturer at the University of East London.   Follow her on Twitter: @jobardi and @ramhe

  

 

 

 

Note: The views and opinions expressed by authors of Guest Blog posts and by those providing comments do not necessarily reflect those of ProtectED. Information on products or services is provided “as is” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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