New research will help Scottish students thrive

A new research project into student mental health in Scotland will aim to better understand the landscape of provision, ‘what works’ for promoting wellbeing, and what students want to enhance and promote their wellbeing.

The Robertson Trust has agreed to fund the project being undertaken by The Mental Health Foundation on behalf of Universities Scotland.

The Thriving Scottish Learners study aims to gain understanding of the mental health and wellbeing of Scottish learners that will lead to recommendations on prevention, early intervention and support of learners’ mental health and wellbeing. The research will be undertaken with students and their student associations; academic and professional staff; as well as the Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Government. The two year project will start this coming autumn.

Recent research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, as part of a study tracking the mental health risks and impacts of the pandemic, has highlighted growing concerns over the mental health of young people living in Scotland.

Over half (58%) of young people aged between 18-24 living in Scotland have felt anxious or worried because of the coronavirus pandemic over the last two weeks. The latest research, carried out between 22-29 May, also found that over one in five (23%) feel afraid, with over a third (41%) saying they have felt lonely over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, nearly two thirds (61%) of young people said they were concerned about their education or training being interrupted because of the pandemic. The survey data, from 2,056 Scottish adults aged 18 and over, were collected as part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project called Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic.

DonnaMarie Steel, Scholarship Officer at The Robertson Trust, said:

“There has never been a more important time to gather learning around student mental health and wellbeing and The Robertson Trust is pleased to play a part in this important research.

“Our vision is of a fair and compassionate Scotland where everyone is valued and able to flourish. In order to achieve this, it is vital that work is being informed by the latest data and a strong understanding of the current climate. This research will help build understanding around what is needed to address issues around student mental health and we await the results and learning it produces with interest.”

Julie Cameron, Associate Director of Mental Health Foundation said:

“We are delighted to be playing a key role in this vital new piece of research which helps provide a crucial insight into the mental health and wellbeing of young learners across Scotland.

“Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, can happen at any age. But young adulthood represents such an important time for development, and it’s vital we speak to them directly to understand what challenges their mental health, as well as protects and promotes it, and introduce ways to help them reach their full potential.

“Our own research has highlighted that there are many young people living in Scotland who feel isolated or don’t know where to turn to if they are experiencing problems. These findings really highlight the importance of both early intervention and prevention, and there is so much more we need to do to make sure the right support is available for young people living in Scotland today.”

Professor Pamela Gillies, Lead Member for Mental Health at Universities Scotland and Principal of Glasgow Caledonian University added:

“We are full of gratitude to The Robertson Trust for agreeing to fund this project. What is special about this study is that it is purely Scottish-focused, looking at the challenges that are unique to universities and their students in Scotland.

“We have seen a rise in both students coming to university with mental health issues and students developing them during their study. We can expect these numbers to increase as we return to a ‘new normal’ in the next academic year. We need to have the best possible evidence to help universities understand what works to ensure that students receive the best and most timely support from ourselves, the NHS and other support providers.

“The sector in Scotland is committed to ensure that they can help every student to flourish during their time at university.”