University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Identifying and Supporting Poor Mental Wellbeing Through Assessment

Golz, Paul ORCID: (2018) Identifying and Supporting Poor Mental Wellbeing Through Assessment. In: Mental Health and the Physical Performer, 14th September 2018, Labanarium, London. (Unpublished)

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There is a growing belief in a rise in mental ill-health amongst HE students within the UK though there is little evidence that any rise is specific to this particular population (Macaskill, 2013). However there are significant risk factors to starting University which could act as contributory factors (Scanlon, Rowling and Weber, 2007). At the University of Worcester we have identified some evidence of increasing occurrences of mental distress, including a significant drop in retention at year 1 (level 4) in which mental difficulties have been reported as the main or a contributory factor. Mitigating circumstances claims for assessment which directly mention mental ill-health have also increased significantly. Anecdotally Academic Tutors are also reporting high levels of “crisis” levels mental ill-health amongst students, similar to that reported elsewhere (Association of University & College Counselling, 2011). Often academic tutors are only made aware of the issue through withdrawal, poor marks or a student in crisis, when it is usually too late to effectively act. On campus there is significant effort to signpost students to mental wellbeing services, including workshops, drop-in sessions, and counselling though the update amongst dance students is low. This remains the case even after specific referrals from academic staff. We theorise that stigma around mental ill-health remains a significant barrier to students accessing these services (Martin, 2010). Low-mid levels of mental distress do not seem sufficient to motivate students to overcome the perceived negative consequences of revealing their ill health. Students are very motivated by assessment (Coutts, Gilleard and Baglin, 2011). Over the last two years we have introduced some form of psychological self-assessment into the first-year dance modules. In order to encourage engagement, these exercises are part of summative assessment portfolio items. Students are asked to complete a series of dance-related psychological exercises drawn from Taylor and Estanol (2015) and self-assess their responses. By using an online notetaking tool (Microsoft OneNote) the lecturer has access to their responses immediately after completion. This allows direction towards psychological training/support as part of the formative feedback process, as well as reframing the contents of taught sessions to directly address issues raised. By tracking these exercises over time students become more proficient at identifying their own mental health. This early intervention has been shown anecdotally to be effective in supporting students through the critical early days of their degree, and by integrating psychological awareness throughout these modules we encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility and openness about mental wellbeing. Engagement with the task was close to 100% and sharing exercises, in which coping strategies can be discussed through an anonymous shared online section, also saw very high levels of engagement. This is relevant as (Pinfold et al., 2005) suggest that peer sharing of experiences of mental health can help reduce stigma.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: mental wellbeing, higher education students, psychological self-assessment, dance-related psychological exercises, online notetaking tool, pstchological support/training as part of formative feedback
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Paul Golz
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2018 14:14
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2022 04:00

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