Volume 3, Issue 3, December, 2017

Special Edition: Mental Health

2017  ISSN 2201-1323



Australian University Students and Mental Health: Viewpoints from the literature

Margaret Anne Carter, Paul Pagliano, Abraham Francis and Marcia ThorneJames Cook University Australia (Pages 1 to 25)

With more than 1.3 million students currently attending Australian universities and an estimated 20% of these experiencing a mental illness it is time this issue received more focused attention. Despite a number of initiatives being conducted there is a still lack of research that provides a comprehensive overview on the mental health of Australian university students which considers the policy landscape designed to support student learning. This research attempts to help fill that gap by providing a purposeful audit of the relevant literature.


Preliminary Findings from an International Study of Subjective Wellbeing in Tertiary Students

Helen J Boon, James Cook University, Australia; Shaul Kimhi, Tel Hai College, Israel; Kalliopi Sapountzaki, Harokopio University, Greece; Merle Parmak, Huddersield University, Great Britain; Arnold Groh, Technische Universitat Berlin, Germany; and Saskia Ryan, Huddersield University, Great Britain. (Pages 26 to 42)

Experiencing high levels of subjective wellbeing is a central criterion of positive mental health in all groups of individuals. Wellbeing is not only the result of favourable life circumstances such as academic success and satisfying relationships, but also a predictor and part cause of these outcomes. More specifically, in relation to university students, wellbeing is important for influencing not only their academic outcomes, their attitudinal and career outcomes, but also outcomes that benefit communities and society at large. Religiosity has been implicated in wellbeing. Results show a number of significant differences based on ethnicity, religiosity, religious affiliation, gender and discipline area of tertiary study. Findings are discussed in relation to prior research and possible interventions that could be instigated in higher education institutions to help increase student wellbeing.  


First-Generation Tertiary Students: Access is not the Same as Support

Krystal Campbell and Bhuva Narayan,  University of Technology, Sydney, Australia (Pages 43 to 60)

This paper argues that despite the various psychosocial factors affecting the mental health of first-generation students (FGS) in higher education, an integrated support system at the institutional level can help students overcome many of the barriers to success at university. The literature points to such factors as the social incongruity between their different worlds, lack of cultural capital, stigma of social status, and psychological factors such as imposter syndrome, and achievement guilt. All these lead to stress and anxiety, and the additional stigma associated with mental health discussions compounds the issue, and worsens the effect of these factors. This paper is based on a collaborative, relational auto-ethnographic analysis by a dyad of two women, three decades apart in age, but brought together in their roles as FGS student and educator.


Educational Media: Potential impacts on tertiary students’ mental health

Margaret Anne Carter and Donna Goldie,  James Cook University (Page 61 to 88)

As the result of the rapid expansion of digital communications, university students worldwide are increasingly engaging with educational and social media during their studies. Challenges are reported in the literature associated with responsible digital citizenship; specifically communicating, connecting and engaging ethically with online media technologies.  This creates a conundrum for staff and students working and learning in higher education.  To explore one component of the complex role of the relationship between university students’ and various media, this literature review examines the following research question: What are the potential impacts of educational and social media on the mental health and wellness of students in higher education? Projects and initiatives demonstrate how educational media is designed and enacted to promote, support and sustain mental health in higher education.


A Preliminary Exploration of Frameworks for Building Artists’ Resilience

Ryan Daniel & Robert Johnstone, James Cook University, Australia (Pages 89 to 104)

It is well known in the literature that artists face particular challenges when attempting to establish a viable and sustainable career in the creative industries. Given extant research points to the precariousness of careers in the creative and performing arts, the capacity to be resilient, confident and determined appears to play a major influence on the extent to which graduates are successful. While the concept of resilience, for example, is well understood and taught in such areas as teacher training, it has received virtually no research attention or focus in the area of the creative and performing arts. This paper contextualises these various issues, argues the need for new research, and proposes that higher education providers should revisit their curricula in order to place a greater emphasis on the mental strength that graduates will require as they transition towards a career in the creative industries.


Mental Health in Australian (North Queensland) Tertiary Students

Russell HawkinsHayley NewittMarissa Piat and Nicole Pfeiffer, James Cook University Australia (Pages 105 to 123)

This paper summarises three studies undertaken by James Cook University psychology students investigating mental health in tertiary students. Study one found that students (N=547) reported greater levels of psychological distress than found for the general population and that scores for depression and anxiety were significantly higher among school leaver students than mature age students. The second study of 372 students found that 34.4% reported clinical levels of anxiety, 55.1% reported clinical levels of depression and there were no major differences between rural and urban students. The third study considered whether exposure to educational videos and a facilitated discussion might positively affect student attitudes towards people experiencing depression. Improved knowledge scores followed video exposure, but attitudes towards depression remained stubbornly unchanged, stereotypical and negative. Difficulties obtaining ethics approval are described as symptomatic of the stigma and institutional reluctance to face up to mental health issues that inhibits progress in the field.


Closing the Rhetoric Reality Gap: Effectively implementing engagement and wellbeing policies in Queensland State Secondary Schools

Alice Herbert , James Cook University, Australia (Pages 124 to 139)

Prescribed national curricula, state-wide implementation strategies and region specific mandated pedagogies may achieve consistency in Queensland secondary schools but to the detriment of student engagement and wellbeing. With such minimal focus on pastoral care, more students experience alienation, loneliness, low self-esteem and stress, resulting in challenging behaviour, disengagement and elevated student expulsion and dropout rates. This paper discusses the major findings from qualitative study that examined the rhetoric-reality gap that exists when implementing engagement and wellbeing policies in Queensland state secondary schools. This research attributes the rhetoric-reality gap to idealistic policy rhetoric, broad policy aims without actionable steps and generalised implementation that dissociates from policy objectives. This paper concludes that engagement and wellbeing needs to be foregrounded in state wide policies, engagement programs need to be implemented and teachers and students need to achieve agency in policy making if we are to bridge the rhetoric-reality gap. 


 E-mental Health for Psychological Distress in University Students: A narrative synthesis on current evidence and practice

Laura Kampel, Jan Orman and Bridianne O’DeaUniversity of New South Wales, Australia (Pages 140 to 152)

Given the high rates of mental health problems experienced by students, and the low rates of help seeking, it is highly desirable for Universities to provide effective interventions that reduce distress and improve wellbeing. There is also a need to move towards an early intervention/prevention model to help students reduce stress and prevent the onset of mental illness. University programs also need to offer flexibility for students to access help, so that more students are likely to seek help. E-mental health has the potential to play an important part in the future of mental health care, making mental health support more accessible and reducing barriers to help seeking. A number of program delivery options will not only benefit the individual student, but will reduce health service costs and benefit the wider university population by creating a culture of health and wellbeing and reducing the stigma of mental illness. The aims of this narrative review are to outline the current knowledge and application of e-mental health programs in the university population, and to discuss ways that prevention and intervention programs delivered via the Internet and smartphones can be taken to scale to reach a larger number of students to improve their mental health.  


Wellbeing Research in Education: A critical realist perspective

Jacqueline B. Ranatunga &  Paul J. Pagliano, James Cook University, Australia (Pages 153 to 172)

The research reported in this mixed methods study was designed to investigate wellbeing in primary school education among learners and educators who participated in a wellbeing intervention program. A critical realist perspective is embraced in the hope of searching for more insightful explanations to the complex challenges in wellbeing education. Critical Realism (CR) offers a highly-refined approach to conducting interdisciplinary research, so it is particularly useful in mixed methods explorations into wellbeing. This is because CR underpins a commitment to human emancipation, exceeding traditional disciplinary boundaries, and fixed methodological positions. Whereas theory driven research focuses primarily on epistemology (relationship between known and knower) and uses reductive methods, with CR ontology (nature of reality) is given precedence and retroductive methods are used to find possible explanations. The research aims to conduct investigations at a deeper, more authentic level by employing ontological realism, epistemic relativism, judgmental rationality, and methodological pluralism.


Employment Trends in Counselling – Australia 2015-2016

Thomas Parker, Australian Counselling Association (Pages 173 to 196)

Counselling as a profession in Australia is still in its infancy and faces competition from numerous sources and an ever-changing marketplace. Situated in the industry of Health Care and Social Assistance, Registered Counsellors face rivalry as an occupation in this populous industry. Registered Counsellors in Australia provide a valuable and worthwhile service to many individuals experiencing mental health illnesses and/or issues. Navigating the “business of mental health” and “providing counselling services in Australia” are key focuses of this study. The study shows that there is great diversity and growth in the profession of counselling with significant opportunities across Australia. The study also provides an overview of the industry of counselling in Australia, maps the different major employer groups, identifies niche markets for Registered Counsellors and highlights several professional issues in paid employment that may impact the profession of counselling.

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