Predicting mental health outcomes and help-seeking amongst university students: the role of academic and social integration

Telley, A 2013, Predicting mental health outcomes and help-seeking amongst university students: the role of academic and social integration, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Predicting mental health outcomes and help-seeking amongst university students: the role of academic and social integration
Author(s) Telley, A
Year 2013
Abstract Australia is focused on widening participation to university, yet with increased diversity comes a complex set of challenges. One challenge involves students who experience difficulty integrating into the university during their first year of study. Integration at university is the “fit” between students and their peers, teachers, and academic work. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the utility of integration as a predictor of student outcomes, including mental health, student wellbeing, and attitudes towards help seeking. A mixed methods approach was used. First, quantitative data was collected from an initial sample of 241 (177 female, 64 male) participants at the beginning, middle, and end of one academic year, investigating integration (across five domains), mental health, wellbeing, and attitudes towards help seeking. Second, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with eight students (7 female, 1 male) at the end of second semester. Results from the quantitative analysis indicated that students come to university with high expectations of their ability to integrate, which was confirmed; actual integration did not change significantly across the course of the year. Further, there was no significant change in mental health, wellbeing, or help seeking attitudes over the course of the year. Although attitudes towards seeking help for a mental health problem were poor, students consistently preferred the counselling service to seeking help from an academic staff member. Results also showed that while integration was a significant predictor of mental health, wellbeing, and help seeking, the domain of integration that significantly predicted outcomes changed over the course of the year, indicating that integration is not only a beginning-of-year activity, but can influence a student’s university experience throughout the year. Qualitative analyses revealed a number of expected and emergent themes. The expected themes included the importance of social support, issues in adjusting to university, facilitators and barriers to help-seeking, how students coped with stress, their ability to integrate into university life, and the stressors and support they experienced external to the university. Emergent themes included reflection on students’ personal growth through the year, the proactive attempts students made in seeking new friendships at university, how they saw integration as a function of their discipline rather than the university, and finally the importance of their relationships with classroom tutors. The thesis concludes by discussing the implications of the link between integration and mental health, wellbeing, and help seeking attitudes, and how the current research adds to the existing knowledge of these constructs. For intervention to be most effective, it is argued that universities must teach mental health literacy, address mental health stigma, and educate new students about the benefits of integration. Any intervention should occur at the program level for maximum benefit.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) mental health
university students
help seeking
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Created: Fri, 06 Jun 2014, 10:11:02 EST by Maria Lombardo
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