Dr Nicola Reavley
Professor Tony Jorm
Professor Terence McCann
Ms Fiona Blee
Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, The University of Melbourne
Project completion year
This project aimed to deliver a mental health literacy campaign for students and staff of Victoria University (VU) which promotes an increased use of appropriate professional help for depression and related disorders, a greater use of evidence-based self-care and an increase in mental health first aid actions by staff and other students.
The project also evaluated the impact of this campaign on students’ knowledge of key messages, stigmatising attitudes, help-seeking, self-care, first aid given and received, depression and related symptoms and everyday functioning. It also measured the impact of this campaign on staff knowledge of key messages, stigmatising attitudes, and mental health first aid training provided.
Aims and objectives
To assess whether a multifaceted mental health literacy intervention could improve recognition of depression, help-seeking intentions, beliefs about interventions, stigmatising attitudes, help-seeking behaviours, first aid behaviours, and knowledge of NHMRC alcohol guidelines and alcohol misuse in staff and students of Victoria University, a multi-campus institution in Melbourne’s west.
The study was a randomised controlled trial in which five campuses were allocated to a control group and three campuses were allocated to the intervention group.
Focus groups were carried out in order to identify key issues and barriers to and enablers of the intervention.
A monitoring sample of staff and students were recruited from each campus. Each monitoring sample participant had a 20-minute phone interview covering: their wellbeing and mental health; what they knew about health problems like depression, anxiety and alcohol misuse; stigmatising attitudes; what they believed was helpful for mental health problems; help sought for mental health problems; first aid behaviours and alcohol consumption and knowledge of NHMRC alcohol guidelines. Monitoring sample interviews were undertaken at baseline, at the end of the first academic year (wave 2) and at the end of the second academic year (wave 3).
Interventions were whole of campus and included:
- student advisory group
- website/Facebook, Twitter activities
- factsheets/booklets (primarily provided by beyondblue)
- campus special events, including Mental Health Week
- student-designed projects, youth work and student placements
- information on Blackboard (electronic course information and notes delivery system)
- mental health first aid training
- exam corner.
Attending/recalling campaign activities/materials
Intervention group students had significantly higher odds of attending/recalling campaign activities/materials than the control group only at wave 2, while staff had significantly higher odds only at wave 3.
Recognition of depression
Intervention group staff had significantly higher odds of recognising depression than the control group only at wave 2.
These analyses included respondents that said they had a similar problem to John/Jenny in the past 12 months. Of the help-seeking actions that 70 per cent or more of clinicians have endorsed as helpful, intervention group students took a significantly larger number of these actions than the control group at wave 3 (IRR=1.41; p<O.OS). This number of actions was also marginally higher than the control group compared to wave 2 (IRR=1.04; p=0.06).
VU support of staff with mental health problems
Staff in the intervention group had marginally higher odds of reporting that VU supported staff with mental problems ‘well-very well’ at wave 3 (OR=4.89; p=O.OS).
Primary outcome measure - psychological distress (K6)
Overall, staff and students in the intervention groups had significantly higher odds of reporting a moderate to high level of psychological distress compared to the control group only at wave 2. However, the results were not statistically significant.
Awareness of NHMRC alcohol guidelines for safe levels of drinking
Intervention group staff overall had significantly higher odds of having heard about the NHMRC guidelines for safe levels of drinking than the control group only at wave 3.
Professional sources of help for alcohol problems
Intervention group staff had significantly higher odds of reporting that they would seek professional help for alcohol-related problems than the control group at waves 2 and 3. (Note that while intervention group staff had significantly lower odds of reporting that they would seek professional help for alcohol problems than the control group at wave 1, there was a high ceiling generally.)
The study provides evidence that a multifaceted mental health literacy intervention undertaken in a tertiary education institution can improve some aspects of mental health literacy.
The findings and many of the resources used in the study have been (and will be further) disseminated via journal articles and conference proceedings. The resources have also been made available via www.studentmentalhealthwiki.org in order that other institutions may access and adapt them to their needs.