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Exploring the feasibility and acceptability of the contents, design, and functionalities of an online intervention promoting mental health, wellbeing, and study skills in Higher Education students

Papadatou-Pastou, Marietta, Campbell-Thompson, Lauren, Barley, Elizabeth, Haddad, Mark, Lafarge, Caroline, McKeown, Eamonn, Simeonov, Louise and Tzotzoli, Patapia (2019) Exploring the feasibility and acceptability of the contents, design, and functionalities of an online intervention promoting mental health, wellbeing, and study skills in Higher Education students International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 13, 51. pp. 1-15.

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Abstract

Background

Substantial numbers of students in Higher Education (HE) are reporting mental health difficulties, such as mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Coupled with academic skills challenges, these difficulties can lead to decreased academic performance, low levels of study satisfaction, and eventually drop out. Student support services are facing budget cuts and can only attend to limited numbers of students, usually the ones who present with more severe mental health problems. Moreover, face-to-face contact may not appeal to those students who feel embarrassed by their problems or are afraid of being stigmatised. To address this important problem, an online psychological wellbeing and study skills support system called MePlusMe, has been developed to provide personalised support to its users. In the present study we investigated the feasibility and acceptability of the contents, design, and functionalities of the system.

Methods

An offline version of the system was introduced to 13 postgraduate and undergraduate students (mean age = 31.3 years, SD = 10.25 years; 4 males) in a UK HE Institution, who presented with mild or moderate mental health difficulties. The participants evaluated the design of the system, its functionalities, and contents at Baseline and at Weeks 2, 4, and 8.

Results

Participants found the system easy to use, professional, and efficient and its contents non-judgemental and informative. Participants stated that engaging with and practicing the techniques targeted at mental health difficulties led to improvements in positive thinking and self-confidence, while the study skills techniques were practical. Suggestions for further improvement included the development of an app and an option for direct engagement with professionals.

Conclusions

The findings confirmed the acceptability of the contents, design and functionalities of the system, while providing useful information to inform its further development. Next steps include a feasibility study, which will test and quantify the effects on everyday functioning, mood, mental wellbeing, and academic self-efficacy after using the system, and subsequently a randomized controlled trial, which will evaluate its effectiveness.

The life of a Higher Education (HE) student can come with a wealth of exciting experiences, invaluable memories, and new challenges. However, during such a critical period of personal, social, and academic development, some of these new challenges may result in initiating or exacerbating existing mental health issues or in making study skills challenges more prominent [1]. A worrying number of students have indeed been found to experience mild to moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety, with the number of students who experience mental health difficulties whilst at university increasing [2]. An online system for psychological, as well as academic, support has been designed to specifically address the growing needs of HE students, MePlusMe. Here we present evidence for the feasibility and acceptability of the system’s contents, design, and functionalities.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Authors :
NameEmailORCID
Papadatou-Pastou, Marietta
Campbell-Thompson, Lauren
Barley, Elizabethe.barley@surrey.ac.uk
Haddad, Mark
Lafarge, Caroline
McKeown, Eamonn
Simeonov, Louise
Tzotzoli, Patapia
Date : 23 July 2019
DOI : 10.1186/s13033-019-0308-5
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author(s) 2019. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Students; Mental health; Higher education; Online intervention; MePlusMe; Wellbeing
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 12 Aug 2019 10:57
Last Modified : 12 Aug 2019 10:57
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/852391

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