Staff experiences of providing support to students who are managing mental health challenges: A qualitative study from two Australian universities
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The prevalence and consequences of mental health challenges amongst university students is now widely acknowledged and university staff provide an important but often hidden service to these students. While completing a university degree is important to the student’s long-term outcomes there remains a paucity of literature on the support role provided to these students by staff. To contribute to knowledge in this area, a qualitative exploratory study was completed with academic and professional staff at two Australian universities in 2013. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 26 participants to document their experiences and to identify the barriers and enablers to their support role to students. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and four themes emerged: (1) Factors that facilitate initiation of staff support; (2) barriers to providing support; (3) challenges facing staff; and (4) how universities support students with mental health challenges. Staff acknowledged the personal and organisational challenges they experienced but also highlighted the rewards they received associated with the role. The provision of training and the acknowledgement of the hidden role and workload by universities were important to ensuring positive outcomes for this group of students.
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