Moving Onwards

Well I am now a second year PhD student – and the work is definitely on! Others have said to me it tends to be much busier in the second year, and after some delays with my ethics application in my first year I have now begun collecting some data. I have been conducting interviews with professionals who work to support the mental health of university students. This has provided a good opportunity to apply and improve my interpersonal skills, as well as improving my understanding of conducting interviews for research. I often feel quite nervous when meeting new individuals, but as the interviews have progressed I have found myself feeling more at ease. The next step with these is to begin analysing the interview data.

I have also recently started circulating an online survey to undergraduate students. Within the survey we are administering three scales to screen for anxiety, depressive symptoms and bipolarity to undergraduate students. Alongside this, we ask participants whether they have experienced any difficulties in their emotional health and well-being since university, how these have affected them and whether they have sought any help/advice for any difficulties. I hope the data from this will provide me with an idea about how prevalent these symptoms are in students and help me build up a brief “profile” of student mental health.

After receiving great support within my department, I am in the final stages of completing my systematic review. The findings seem to suggest that - compared to receiving no treatment or an attention placebo - online interventions to improve mental health outcomes do have some positive effects upon students’ mental health. However there are many factors within this review that mean the findings need to be approached with caution – such as the small number of studies found and the range of outcome measures used. None the less conducting this provided me with some initial experience of what it takes to complete a review.

November 2012 - Events

This month I attended a workshop run by the British Psychological Society at their London offices. The workshop was based around using LifeGuide – which is a freely available piece of software that allows researchers to create, modify and trial online interventions. Developed by a team of researchers at the University Of Southampton, LifeGuide is designed for use by individuals with no programming experience and can be used to design behavioural and mental health interventions. I found the workshop highly useful – and hopefully I will be able to use the LifeGuide software to develop my online intervention to help management of depression in university students.

Later on this month I will be attending the Student Mental Health Conference at Wadham College, Oxford. This conference is organised by SRSH, a voluntary charity which helps to provide support to students with mental health problems. This conference brings together experts within the field to provide some informative talks to both students and professionals working in universities. I hope to find this conference an informative event, and will provide the opportunity to speak both to students engaged in university-based mental health campaigns and who have experienced mental health difficulties.