Mental health in schools

Earlier this year, researchers based at the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) at UCL , a unit dedicated to mental health research and innovation in childhood/youth, published an article focusing on the prevalence of mental health problems in schools (Deighton et al., 2019).  

Background and aims for the research – why was it needed?

Policy and research are increasingly focussed on the early identification and prevention of mental health problems in children and young people, based on earlier reported that 1 in 10 experience problems. However, recent evidence suggests that estimates might be higher, and vary according to population.  

The study aimed to explore the prevalence rates of mental health problems of adolescents in schools, as well as the characteristics which influence the odds of adolescents experiencing such problems.

How was the research conducted?

Online surveys were completed by children in Years 7 and 9, during a teacher-facilitated session, and following consent. Ninety-seven English secondary schools who were involved in the HeadStart programme were selected to take part, covering six geographical regions. The final sample consisted of 28,160 adolescents, with the majority (51.2%) of participants aged between 11-12 years in Year 7.

What kind of measures were used?

To assess self-reported mental health difficulties, researchers used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Four categories of problems are assessed within the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire – emotional, conduct, peer-relationship, and hyperactivity/inattention. Demographic ‘risk’ factors were also explored and this included: Special Educational Needs status, Free School Meal eligibility, Child in Need status, and ethnicity.

What did the researchers find?

Results indicated that 40% (42.5%) of schools reported an elevated risk of adolescents experiencing problems with emotional symptoms, conduct, and inattention/hyperactivity. Those in the ‘high risk’ groups were divided as follows: emotional symptoms (18.4%), conduct problems (18.5%), inattention/hyperactivity (25.3%), and peer-relationship problems (7.3%). Risk factors that increased the odds of adolescents experiencing mental health problems included deprivation (FSM), Child in Need status, gender, ethnicity, and age.

What did the researchers conclude?

Two in five young people were experiencing difficulty in the majority of mental health problem areas assessed (emotional, conduct, and hyperactivity). Risk factors included gender, deprivation (Free School Meals), Child in Need status, ethnicity and age.

However, the researchers cautioned that the increased rates reported could be due to greater recognition/reporting, and/or measurement issues (e.g., self-report may have resulted in higher estimates than a diagnostic tool would report).

The full article can be viewed here.

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associate on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).

University Mental Health Charter Roadshow

What is the Charter?

In 2018, former Universities Minister Sam Gyimah announced the development of a new University Mental Health Charter – an initiative led by Student Minds (supported by a grant from the Universities Partnership Programme Foundation) , and in partnership with the Office for Students , Department for Education , the National Union for Students , Universities UK , and AMOSSHE . The Charter will be a voluntary award, to recognise good practice in supporting and promoting mental health and wellbeing in students, as well as the wider University community (Charter FAQs can be viewed here).

How will the Charter research be conducted?

To develop the Charter, Student Minds have organised a road trip comprised of six events across the UK between March-April 2019. The roadshow aims to bring together students and University staff at all levels/areas (e.g., academics, professional staff etc.) to facilitate the co-production of the Charter. Each event consists of a number of focus groups, in addition to a keynote speaker.

Roadshow activities

I attended the event hosted by University Arts London on 27/03/19. The focus groups and activities were well organised, and delegates were presented with plenty of opportunity reflect, share their experiences (and those of their peers/colleagues), and connect with others. Student and staff were considered within discussions, to ensure that the Charter adopts a ‘whole University’ approach. Natasha Devon  – writer and mental health activist- was the keynote speaker for the roadshow, and spoke candidly and passionately (with humour thrown in) about her work, and how this could be applied within a Higher Education context.

Results from the roadshows will be analysed, and disseminated within the wider academic/policy community (e.g., via conferences, journal articles etc.). Moreover, the Charter will be a living document – updated where relevant to ensure it is still current to the Higher Education landscape.

Next steps

There is still opportunity to participate in the roadshows, with one date remaining:

Tuesday 2nd April – Cardiff Students’ Union 

Student Minds  are interested to hear from as many students and staff as possible, to help shape the Charter. The survey is available online until the 7th April.

To follow all tweets linked to the roadshow events and more, please see #UniMentalHealthCharter

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associate on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).


PGR Wellbeing Mid-Project Update

The mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers (PGRs) (e.g., PhD, ProfDoc etc.) and the student population generally is in the public focus. Reports of the mental health difficulties of students (e.g., The Independent, BBC News) continue to make for concerning reading. In August 2018, I introduced the PGR Wellbeing project in a blog post for the MICE Hub – a project that aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of PGRs by improving mental health literacy and social support. We are now at the midway point for the project, which is due to be completed in January 2020. Our current project-related activities are as follows:

Pre-intervention survey
  • The pre-intervention survey was completed between October – November 2018 (n = 241), with further recruitment from Leeds Beckett University planned for February 2019.
  • Data analysis is ongoing, but the data suggests that the majority of researchers were experiencing mild-severe non-specific psychological distress, and that focusing on improving wellbeing generally may help to reduce this (e.g., improving individual knowledge of mental health conditions may be beneficial).
Interventions

 

 

 

 

 

Image – PGRs attending the co-production workshop in December 2018

  • We ran an initial co-production interventions workshop with PGRs December 2018, and sought feedback from PGRs for the proposed project-related interventions.
  • PGRs were interested in developing interventions, being PGR mental health ‘champions’ and representing PGRs at the University of Portsmouth at the UKCGE conference in May.

Online resources

  • An online development team at the University of Portsmouth have been seconded to develop online mental health and wellbeing resources with PGRs, ready to go live in October.

Mentoring circles

  • After the initial consultation with PGRs in December, mentoring circles will be developed and piloted with PGRs, the Graduate School and the Wellbeing Service, ready to go live in October.

Supervisor training session(s)

  • We delivered an initial supervisory training workshop in November 2018, which covered a wide range of topics included the role of the supervisor, pedagogies, and identification of mental health problems, guidance, and referral, amongst others.
  • A further workshop is planned for 12th February 2019 in the Graduate School.
Next steps for the project

We will be developing our project-related interventions (e.g., online resources, mentoring circles, supervisor training) with PGRs, ready to go live in October 2019. Our project partner, Leeds Beckett University, will be evaluating the tools and guidance that we develop at the University of Portsmouth from October 2019 onwards.

Conference

In partnership with UKCGE, Nature Research and the University of Sussex, we will be co-delivering/presenting an International Conference on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers from 16th-17th May 2019, at the Jury’s Inn Waterfront, Brighton.

The purpose of the event is to discuss and update delegates on sector policy developments (nationally and internationally), institutional strategies, research, and good practice in the field of PGR mental health and wellbeing. The conference is aimed at researchers, as well as practitioners, within Higher Education.

How can I keep updated on the progress of the project?

Project-related updates will be posted periodically on the MICE hub website and Twitter. General information about the project is available on the project-relate website. Details are as follows:

Email: pgrwellbeing@port.ac.uk

Twitter: @Pgrwellbeing

Project-related website

I would like to get involved/I know someone who may be interested

If you are a PGR (or know someone) at the University of Portsmouth who would like to get involved with helping us develop our interventions, please get in touch –  pgrwellbeing@port.ac.uk.

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associated on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).