Being a student can be tough—and I’m not just talking about living off two-minute noodles or sitting in the library on a caffeine high at 2am with every other architecture student pulling an all nighter kind of problems.
Whether you have personally struggled with your mental health or have just beared witness to its effects on wellbeing and day-to-day functioning, we can all agree we’ve got enough on our plates as uni students. The pressure we feel to perform well academically, earn enough money to get by and maintain a social life, while juggling countless other commitments and just life in general, can quickly show itself in some nasty ways, and its about time the impact this has on students is recognised.
After completing his masters in clinical psychology in 2014 at Belgium’s University of Leuven, Glenn Kiekens teamed up with the WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project to provide research on the broader mental health of university students. The research aims to determine the potential for mental health issues to develop in students, challenges in adapting to university life, and the burden these factors can have on academic performance.
Now collaborating with Curtin to complete his PhD, Glenn has brought his research to Perth, where he is focussing primarily on non-suicidal self-injury. NSSI, or damage done to the body without suicidal intent, occurs in around 20% of uni students according to Glenn, and these students have a higher rate of dropping out within their first year of study. What he aims to find is which students of this alarming large proportion are at risk of developing suicidal behaviours later down the track, and ways we can best identify them so they can be helped.
To assist in his research, a survey targeted at all first year Curtin undergraduate students has been created, and works to follow participants throughout their studies. The survey not only assesses students’ mental and emotional wellbeing, but also acts to examine facilities and barriers to help seeking, such as the stigma around mental illness and whether students have been made aware of the services Curtin offers.
Acknowledging that a lot of universities students are faced with these issues, Glenn has dedicated his time to “research that will contribute something to the mental health of young adults.”
“University can be a nice time for a lot of people and for developing academic skills, personal skills and social skills, but it’s also the most sensitive period for developing mental health problems and suicidal behaviours which we know have consequences on several levels throughout people’s whole lives.”
However, as an important and worthwhile project, student involvement is imperative. Running for the first time last year, the survey only had an 8% participation rate. This year it needs to jump to 40% if it is to both achieve its aims of identifying and helping struggling students, and continue involvement in the larger project.
Entirely confidential and only taking 20-30 minutes, this survey allows students to put their mental health on the agenda and assist in research that will ensure their own university experience is the best it can be. Students have the opportunity to receive mental health information and resources, along with a summary of key study findings and personal feedback for those who continue to participate over their course of study. Email invitations have now been sent out, but if you want to learn more or get involved head to https://www.facebook.com/CurtinWBS/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need to talk to someone; contact:
Curtin Counselling services on 9266 7850 or 1800 651 878
Headspace on (03) 9027 0100 or https://www.headspace.org.au/about-us/contact-us/