Higher Education – A Mechanism To Support Well-Being And Mental Health

Robson, Linda (2021). Higher Education – A Mechanism To Support Well-Being And Mental Health. In: ICERI2021 Proceedings, ICERI2021 pp. 1–5.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2021

URL: https://iated.org/iceri/publications


In recent years there has been increased awareness of the need to promote mental health and well-being within our communities. In the Higher Education sector this has led to a focus on two areas; support for those with identified mental health conditions, and more general well-being support to counteract the potential stress impact of study and assessment. In both cases aspects of the educational process are seen as potentially problematic or aggravating and the goal is to minimize a negative mental health impact.
Whilst the benefits of educational attainment at society, community and individual levels relating to economic opportunity and lifetime health are widely researched, the potential for individual mental health and well-being benefits whilst actively engaged in higher education seem to be largely overlooked in the literature.
In a study of part-time distance learners’ experiences of interrupted study at The Open University, UK, participants highlighted the importance of returning to study in order to support their mental health. The students had taken an unplanned interruption due to being impacted by a range of life events. During the period of their interruption, they revaluated their study plans before reregistering to return. Amongst those students who decided to resume their studies, whilst qualification goals remained important, these leaners also identified a mental health and well-being benefit from being engaged in education which was a key factor in their decision to return.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out with thirteen part-time distance learners who had experience of interrupted study. This paper reports on the links these students made between study and their on-going mental health and well-being. Whilst managing their studies alongside work and family commitments was sometimes stressful, several students reported an overall benefit to their mental health from returning to and continuing their studies. This paper is linked to a larger study looking to improve the advice and guidance offered to students considering taking a formal interruption and thus to develop a better understanding of how to support them to continue with their studies when they experience difficulties or, if they decide to interrupt, facilitate their return to study.

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