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Student Advisory Group - termly catch up 09/01/22

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Jemima gave an updated overview of the project with news of progress since our July meeting.


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Questions arising from Jemima’s presentation:


1. Are the percentages reported in the survey results the percentage of the whole cohort?

The percentages represent the proportion of the 1500 Exeter students who answered that question in the survey.


2. Are the apps in the trial already in place, can we access them now?

The one for the ‘Reducing Worry’ trial is not available until we launch the trial, we’ve adapted a therapy app for our needs (with help from the Student Group!).

The app for the ‘Treating Anxiety and Depression’ trial is called Silvercloud. It is widely available, often prescribed on the NHS and in Wellbeing Services. You normally need to pay to use this app.


3. Is the testing phase of the Wellbeing Toolkit over?

In a sense, yes, in a sense, no! The pre-research phase of the testing is over, but we are piloting it in Exeter so if you take part in the research and use the Tool we will be asking for your feedback. We can then change things if needed before it’s launched in the other Universities.


4. There are two thirds females in the survey, only just over 25% males. Is this due to the fact mental health is still more taboo for men?

I think likely yes, and it’s something we need to explore further. It’s also something we need to explore in our next stages of recruitment – how to get more people who don’t identify as female involved. We also want to target other groups who are underrepresented in our current sample, for example black students. (Any ideas welcome!) It’s likely we’ll need targeted advertising, perhaps less of an emphasis on ‘wellbeing’ (especially for males), different types of terminology.


5. Can we refer to this data in papers we are writing?

Yes! Please cite it as Watkins et al (2022) Preliminary findings from the Nurture-U Wellbeing Survey. Unpublished Data, University of Exeter.


We then went into breakout rooms to discuss two topics, before feeding back to the wider group. We added our thoughts to this padlet.


1. Survey findings and analysis


Comments on the presented findings

· Some of the findings are quite discordant. E.g. the high proportion of people who’ve had unusual experiences or thoughts. These are commonly thought of as symptoms of mania or psychosis, and actually only 30% of people who have diagnoses of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia have these experiences.

o Jemima: you’re right, it is worth considering that people did not have a complete understanding of the question. Or, people can have symptoms like this for other reasons, e.g. if they are exhausted, bereaved, highly anxious, and maybe this is a realistic proportion of people who have experienced these symptoms. But something to explore in more detail, definitely.

· How do we know that people weren’t answering quickly for free cake? Are everyone’s answers true?

o Comment from student who worked on the stalls that gave out cake – she was surprised by how honest people seemed to be in their responses, given that they were often filling it out quite quickly on the day.

o Jemima: we are filtering out responses that seem obviously problematic, e.g. finished very quickly, or gave the same answers to everything.

· We need to check if percentage of international students is the same as the percentage of international students at Exeter. Same with PhD students.

· The timescale of the survey was the first 4 weeks of term. It’s likely people will feel differently at different times of year, e.g. with shorter days.

o Jemima: yes this is one of the reasons we are doing two surveys a year! But you’re right ideally we’d have 4 for each season.

Ideas for further analysis

· Cultural differences in approaches to mental health

o Explore different symptoms/experiences of international students.

· Whether there are differences in the current mental health of international students.

· Gender differences

· Significant bisexual population – interesting to see relationship with mental health, protective or more vulnerability.

· Links between past and present mental health.

o Also links between past mental health and contacting mental health services

· Link between substance misuse and mental health.

· Variation in years, ages, undergraduate vs postgraduate etc.

o Different age groups may see self-care differently.

· People are still recovering from covid, so good to check how those questions link with mental health.

· Any links with socioeconomic status.

· Links between caffeine / alcohol and sleep and wellbeing.

· Links between age and eating difficulties.

· Link between time of year and symptoms – help to explore seasonal affective disorder.

· Link between academic record and wellbeing symptoms (note from Jemima: we are looking at this for students who give us consent to access their academic records!)


Ideas for changes to future surveys

· Impacts of the cost of living crisis – e.g. added stress, need for additional jobs, having to withdraw or interrupt studies.

o Idea (by Jemima) that this could replace the current Covid questions

· Do we look at family estrangement? This will impact people’s wellbeing.

· Could ask more questions to international students to capture differences in approaches to mental health – will give us a different idea of their belief systems which may explain relationships with other variables (e.g. service use)

· Explore potential barriers to accessing mental health services.

· We may want to limit female involvement to a certain number and start targeting men specifically if we want better gender representation (this is what they do in some cardiology research).

· Is it possible to explore socioeconomic status in more detail?

· Should there be a more general question regarding weight / eating disorders: e.g. ‘are you happy with your weight?’

· Most students use cm for height, not feet and inches.

· It would be nice to explore how experience at uni, e.g. feeling lonely/isolated, affects your later mental health.



2. Promoting the Wellbeing Toolkit


· Sponsored adverts on Instagram

· Targeted social media adverts (e.g. to men, and protected characteristics), on Instagram / Snapchat / Facebook.

· Free cake always good! And on-campus events/presence in general.

· Going into lectures.

· Showing how the Toolkit actually works will be key – as a concept it’s a bit ‘vague’ otherwise.

· Posters.

· Random prizes for participants.


Plans going forward

· Wellbeing Toolkit is launching at the end of January, will be in touch soon for volunteers for on-campus / online promotion.

· Compassionate campus focus groups on ableism and racism in the new year, get in touch if you’re interested!

More analysis and feedback for the survey results, and help with launching the Spring survey.

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