STUDENT wellbeing, MENTAL HEALTH, and performance
Being a student might outwardly seem to be a nice life - long holidays, and fewer ‘adulting’ responsibilities look really great on paper. But, what does student mental health look like? Well, a survey of high school students in Australia showed show that one-fifth reported experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress , and a survey of Australian university students showed that one in four university students experience mental health problems every year . Not only does this impact on students’ wellbeing and quality of life, but students experiencing mental health problems are more likely to leave their studies prematurely and experience problems entering the workforce .
RISK FACTORS FOR STUDENTS
While there are many great parts about student life, there are also some unique stressors that can make students more at risk for mental health problems. These include:
Evidence suggests that the onset of 75% of all mental disorders occurs before the age of 24 years old . University often coincides with this important transition period, making young students at increased risk.
Juggling work and study demands can be tricky! While 82% of students are in paid work, only 35% of these think they have satisfactory study/work balance. More than one quarter of full-time students regularly miss class because of work and 41% report that work negatively impacts on their study .
Unsurprisingly, given the financial and work pressures of being a student, many Australian students face issues with poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and disrupted sleep patterns. This in turn can have negative impacts on mental health .
MOVING AWAY FOR SCHOOL
For rural and international students, attending university also means moving away from family, friends, support networks, and cultural and community connections. This means that both of these student groups are at increased risk for experiencing mental health problems [7, 8].
All students can be impacted by the pressure to excel academically, in the context of a job market that is increasingly competitive. However, evidence suggests this is particularly true for students in disciplines which require high grade entries .
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE STUDENTS’ HEALTH OUTCOMES?
There is a lot that can be done to improve the wellbeing and mental health of students. Here are some important things to stay on top of:
Exams tend to be a stressful time for most students. For six sure-fire tips to help you stay on top of the stress surrounding exams, check out our blog post on 6 sure-fire way to manage Exam Stress. At times, the anxiety surrounding exams becomes so intense and distressing that it actually interferes with your performance. If this sounds like it could be happening to you, learn more about it at our info page on Exam Anxiety.
Choosing the right study techniques can have big impact not only on academic performance, but also to help you combat study fatigue! Check out our blog post on How to Choose the Right Study Techniques to help you study smarter, not harder.
Managing Intense Emotions
When you’re thinking in 10-week, 12-week,or 14-week sprints until exams, every week that you’re able to stay focused counts. Intense emotions can derail your progress during this short sprint, so it’s vital to get on top of it as soon as possible. In particular, managing anxiety is a really important skill for students, with a recent survey finding that around 80% of tertiary students felt their anxiety and/or stress affected their studies . Check out our article for pointers on How to Manage Anxiety on Campus and make a start on feeling better.
There is increasing evidence that our mindset can have a powerful impact over our performance . This is particularly true for students! Check out our Resource Library for our tip sheet on Mindset (Fixed vs. Growth mindset).
Staying on Top of the Basics
Some of the most important things for staying healthy, are also the most basic! Check out our blog post on the Essential Ingredients for Staying Healthy at University for tips on maintaining a resilient body and a clear mind.
got to get into study-mode?...get NIMBLE NOODLE.
Learn ways to prepare better for your exams by getting on top of your studies. In Nimble Noodle, an online course for students where you can learn to use your brain flexibly to stay focused until the end. We focus on a holistic approach to exam performance - academically, psychologically, and physically. Nimble Noodle for students covers:
Learn how to study better
Studying is more than just opening your books and rote-learning the information contained in your textbook, nor just attending classes and summarising what the teacher covers. In Nimble Noodle we cover:
How to set yourself up for a great academic year, semester, or term by planning your studies with good time management.
Understanding how your memory works and how to work with its limitations to boost your performance.
How to read and take notes effectively rather than writing everything you read/hear. Pages and pages of notes do not automatically turn you into an excellent student. You have to engage with your notes and study strategically.
How to be effective when it comes to assignments by taking a strategic approach to planning how to tackle your assignment, how to conduct research, and planning what to write.
LEARN HOW TO MANAGE YOUR STUDIES BETTER (BURNOUT AND PROCRASTINATION, WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU!)
An academic year can seem really long. A semester may seem less of a stretch, but in reality it means that you have to be able to sustain your performance to make it over many weeks. So how do you stay on track with your studies when there are multiple distractions, fun things to do instead, and not burn out before you get to the end? In Nimble Noodle we’ll look at:
How your mindset can demotivate and derail your best intentions, and how to shift your self talk to help you stay on track with your studies. Feeling motivated to approach your studies, or feeling demotivated and procrastinating on a task, all stem from your mindset and powerful self-talk. We take a deep dive into mindset and how to make it work to your advantage.
How to look after your physical health so that you don’t crash and burn. Think of the classic stressed-out student who sets aside a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep, who instead spends every waking moment studying - how effective will this student be when it comes to the crunch?
How to manage stress, intense emotions, and setbacks so that they don’t derail your studies. Feeling overwhelmed can lead you to check out of your studies, so why not learn to managing distressing emotions so that it’s easier to refocus on your studies?
How to manage your time better and to set up an environment that helps your studies. Learning about your peak times of alertness can boost your studies.
How to think critically about your study progress (meta-learning).
HOW TO PREPARE FOR EXAM DAY(S)
Finally, we cover how to prepare for exam time with specific tips covering:
How to study strategically when it comes to your exam preparation
What to do on exam day
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Nimble Noodle is brought to you by our Clinical Psychologist Dr Joyce Chong, and Dr Kevin Yong, GP and blogger at eat.move.chill. They’ve worked together over the years to help students get set for their studies and exams, and have put together their best tips that work so you can access them all in the one place.
Joyce has a special interest in learning and memory, having completed her PhD on the link between anxiety and working memory. She also worked for many years with students at University Counselling and Psychological Services, helping them stay on track with their studies through a combination of developing strong study skills, managing moods that get in the way of effective studying, and also developing the right mindset for success.
Kevin is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy body for wellbeing and the mind. His focus is on helping students look after themselves in ways that support their learning and concentration, and to ensure that they stay well and illness-free for this very significant year of their lives.
As a special thank you to our The Skill Collective readers while we build up our Nimble Noodle course you can ACCESS AN EARLY DISCOUNT ON NIMBLE NOODLE by clicking on this link HERE.
And if you’d like a tailored plan to help you manage all aspects of student life better, why not Contact Us? We have a particular passion for working with student issues.
 Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhoven De Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J, Zubrick SR (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Department of Health, Canberra.
 Orygen (2017). Under the radar: The mental health of Australian university students. Melbourne: Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.
 Stallman, H. M. (2008). Prevalence of psychological distress in university students--implications for service delivery. Australian Family Physician, 37, 673-7.
 Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of general psychiatry, 62(6), 593-602.
 Universities Australia (2018). 2017 Universities Australia student finances survey. Retrieved from Analysis and Policy Observatory Website: https://apo.org.au/node/186561
 Browne, V., Munro, J., & Cass, J. (2017). Under the Radar: The Mental Health of Australian University Students. JANZSSA-Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, 25(2), 2617.
 Mulder, A. M., & Cashin, A. (2015). Health and wellbeing in students with very high psychological distress from a regional Australian university. Advances in Mental Health, 13(1), 72-83.
 Forbes-Mewett, H., & Sawyer, A. M. (2011). Mental health issues amongst international students in Australia: Perspectives from professionals at the coal-face. In Proceeding from The Australian Sociological Association Conference Local Lives/Global Networks. Goldberg, D.(1978). Manual of the General Health Questionnaire: Nfer.
 Kruisselbrink Flatt, A. 2013. A Suffering Generation: Six factors contributing to the mental health crisis in North American higher education. College Quarterly, 16.
 Rickwood, D., Telford, N., O’Sullivan, S., Crisp, D., & Magyar, R. (2016). National tertiary student wellbeing survey 2016. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Headspace.
 Dweck, C.S., Walton, G.M., & Cohen, G.L. (2014). Academic tenacity: Mindsets and skills that promote long-term learning. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED576649.pdf