Developed by University of Greek Team
For many researchers, higher education is a major transition period with increasing social, academic, and financial demands (Briggs et al. 2012; Richardson et al., 2017). During this period, students are confronted with various developmental challenges including separating from their family, setting up their own social networks, adjusting to new rules and requirements of an organisation, stepping into a career path, and building romantic relationships (Giovazolias et al., 2010).
Taking into consideration the aforementioned, engaging in higher education can make a positive contribution to people’s mental wellbeing in that it:
However, this period may also pose various difficulties and challenges at the psychological level; indeed, prevalence of mental health difficulties amongst university students are especially common. At times, such challenges may go beyond students’ resources and capacity to effectively cope, leading to academic struggles and a decrease in the quality and satisfaction of life (Räsänen, Lappalainen, Muotka, Tolvanen, & Lappalainen, 2016). Due to the fact that students face many stressors and transitional events, they are confronted with potential development of these common mental health issues (Cuijpers et al., 2016; Huang, Nigatu, Smail-Crevier, Zhang, & Wang, 2018). A global survey of about 14,000 students found that 35% of the sample reported at least one DSM-IV mental disorder (Auerbach et al., 2016). Most common psychological difficulties in student population include depression, anxiety, stress, substance use, relational problems, suicidality (Sheldon et al., 2021).
Recently, UK Universities called for universities to transform institutions into “mentally healthy universities” that place the mental health and wellbeing of staff and students as foundational for all aspects of the university system (De Parry & Dicks, 2020)
Many HE Institutions have put a lot of effort in developing strategies and policies in order to promote their students’ wellbeing.
Below is graphic representation of what constitutes a Student Wellbeing Policy:
Usually, a Student Wellbeing Policy includes some of the following aspects (this is an indicative, not exhaustive list):
Additionally, according to a relevant research report (GuildHE, 2018) a key part of creating a culture of wellbeing is good signposting to services. It is of high importance that students are aware of the services that are available to them, since it could facilitate them to access appropriate support and de-stigmatises poor mental health.
Many Universities across Europe have developed specific policies and relevant strategies aiming to foster their students’ wellbeing. Some examples are the following:
All students are provided with a basic support (courses, online self-help programs, activities and events), a supplementary one if needed (counselling, coaching and group workshops) and on a third level enhanced support (individual and group enhanced counselling).
The wellbeing strategy is designed to ensure that:
Also, it aims to represent a commitment to an integrated approach to staff wellbeing that creates:
For serving and supporting the above the University has utilized various resources engaging Schools, Departments, staff, staff representatives and other University members delegating different responsibilities such as implementing safe systems of work to safeguard employees’ health and wellbeing, reporting stress and ill health to management as early as possible, implementing and monitoring workload in relation to health and work etc.
Auerbach, R.P., Alonso, J., Axinn, W.G., Cuijpers, P., Ebert, D.D., Green, J.G., Hwang, I., Kessler, R.C., Liu, H., Mortier, P., Nock, M.K., Pinder-Amaker, S., Sampson, N.A., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Al-Hamzawi, A., Andrade, L.H., Benjet, C., Caldas-de-Almeida, J. M., Demyttenaere, K., Florescu, S., de Girolamo, G., Gureje, O., Haro, J.M., Karam, E. G., Kiejna, A., Kovess-Masfety, V., Lee, S., McGrath, J.J., O’Neill, S., Pennell, B.-E., Scott, K., Ten Have, M., Torres, Y., Zaslavsky, A.M., Zarkov, Z., & Bruffaerts, R., (2016). Mental disorders among college students in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Psychological Medicine, 46, 2955–2970.
Briggs, A. R. J., Clark, J & Hall, I. (2012). “Building Bridges: Understanding Student Transition to University.” Quality in Higher Education, 18(1), 3–21. doi:10.1080/13538322.2011.614468.
Cuijpers, P., Cristea, I. A., Karyotaki, E., Reijnders, M., & Huibers, M. J. (2016). How effective are cognitive behavior therapies for major depression and anxiety disorders? A meta‐analytic update of the evidence. World Psychiatry, 15(3), 245-258. doi.org/10.1002/wps.20346
De Parry, J. & Dicks, A. (2020). Stepchange: Mentally Healthy Universities. Universities UK. Available online: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and analysis/reports/Documents/2020/uuk-stepchange-mhu.pdf (accessed on 7 July 2021).
Giovazolias, T., Leontopoulou, S., & Triliva, S. (2010). Assessment of Greek University Students’ Counselling Needs and Attitudes: An Exploratory Study. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 32 (2), 101-116.
GuildHE (2018). Wellbeing in Higher Education. Available online at: https://guildhe.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/GuildHE-Wellbeing-in-Higher-Education-WEB.pdf
Huang, J., Nigatu, Y. T., Smail-Crevier, R., Zhang, X., & Wang, J. (2018). Interventions for common mental health problems among university and college students: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 107, 1-10. doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2018.09.018
Räsänen, P., Lappalainen, P., Muotka, J., Tolvanen, A., & Lappalainen, R. (2016). An online guided ACT intervention for enhancing the psychological wellbeing of university students: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 78, 30-42. doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2016.01.001
Richardson, T., Elliott, P., Roberts, R., & Jansen, M. (2017). A Longitudinal Study of Financial Difficulties and Mental Health in a National Sample of British Undergraduate Students. Community Mental Health Journal, 53(3), 344–352. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-016-0052-0
Sheldon, E., Simmonds-Buckley, M., Bone, C., Mascarenhas, T., Chan, N., Wincott, M., Gleeson, H., Sow, K., Hind, D., & Barkham, M. (2021). Prevalence and risk factors for mental health problems in university undergraduate students: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 287, 282–292. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.03.054