The Student Experience: Mental Health
In considering the student experience we first need to accept that this will differ from individual to individual and at the same time vary depending on the context where the student may find themselves.
Students with mental health difficulties may experience greater anxieties about learning that other students. Some may take medication that affects their concentration, memory and their ability to participate. Short-term memory may be especially affected.
For many students their mental health may be variable, with good and bad days. This may affect attendance, punctuality and behaviour. Some students may be unable to engage in the learning process until relevant emotional issues are resolved. Progress will be variable, and regression can be common.
People with mental health difficulties can often lack confidence, if tutors can recognise this and promote the student’s self-esteem; it will have a positive outcome in terms of effective learning.
For the purposes of this case study we have broken these contexts down to:
- General organisation, timekeeping, attendance etc – avoiding difficult tasks, unable to prioritise, overwhelmed by volume of work, procrastination and lack of engagement.
- Student life / social activities – social anxiety, depression/low mood from changes to routine, transition into a new environment (e.g. home sickness), poor eating and other habits
- Research and reading – concentration issues, motivation, lack of energy, unable to find suitable material, lack of clarity about tasks and difficulty asking for help with this.
- Online learning – not asking for technical help where required, don’t understand the system so avoid it (miss out on learning, access to resources), disengagement, impacts on motivation and attendance, anxiety about being on camera and/or peers being off camera, lack of face to face peer support, lack of clarity.
- Composition, referencing and proof reading – overly critical of own work – perfectionism, difficulty structuring work, don’t know what’s expected (ambiguity in assignment brief), referencing (referencing guide unclear or confusing)
- Exams and timed assessments – anxiety about sitting in a large group, over sensitivity to noises/ distraction in an exam hall, anxiety over revision or lack of preparation.
- Placement, work experience and field trips – concern about feedback, new environment, new people, not knowing what is expected or where to go
- In class
- Lectures -attendance affected, disengagement, poor note-taking
- Tutorials – fear of how others will view them, not being able to get point across
- Group work – social anxiety, not feeling able to speak up/contribute
- Presentations – anxiety about presenting to groups, performance impacted by nerves/anxiety, non-attendance/avoidance
- Lab work – fear of being put on the spot, not knowing answers, having to speak in front of class
The next tab provides insights into the student expereince through the use of two case studies, based on real-life experience.