Cambridge university introduces mental health testing for students

The study aims to identify the effect of the pandemic on students’ mental health and wellbeing

Cambridge students are being invited to take part in a university mental health testing study.

The Student Experiences in the Pandemic (STEP) study seeks to monitor students’ mental health and wellbeing during Lent Term.

The study aims to identify what effects the pandemic has had on students’ mental health and well being, as well as pinpoint risk and resilience factors.

In a statement, the university said results from the study would be used to “help the university to design better well-being policies.”

As part of the study, students will be asked to fill in a brief daily online survey and a slightly longer weekly distress screen.

The study is being run by a team led by Professors Peter Jones and Tamsin Ford at the School of Clinical Medicine and has been designed following advice from undergraduate, postgraduate and PHD students, alongside Cambridge SU officers.

The study is being carried out by a team at the School of Clinical Medicine

To encourage participation, students who take part will be offered weekly “mental distress level” feedback and will be included in a weekly prize draw for a £100 Amazon voucher.

In an email to students, the team running the study said: “We know that lockdowns, social isolation, uncertainty, and disrupted opportunities can have considerable effects on students’ mental health and wellbeing.”

They have also acknowledged the difficulties faced by all students this term: These are difficult times for all of us, and are likely to affect those students living in Colleges or private accommodation in Cambridge, as well as those who have not been able to return to Cambridge.”

This comes amid news that 73 per cent of students have said that their mental health has declined during the lockdown, according to the mental health charity Mind.

Following the announcement, Anna McKeon, President of Student Minds Cambridge told the Tab “It is heartening to see that the University is researching how students’ mental health has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is essential that this translates into action to promote student wellbeing.
“In recent weeks we have seen colleges institute vastly different returns policies for students following the government announcement in early January that the majority of students should not return. Consequently, numerous students with mental illnesses have been barred from returning despite the adverse impact on their health.
“It has also emerged that the university’s Disabilities Resource Centre is in dire need of more resources, staff and funding.
“It would be good to see the university focus on addressing these issues – research without action is not enough.”

The STEP team have said they hope the study “will further enhance our understanding of potential ways to better support students.”

Further information on the STEP study and how to get involved can be found here

Feature image credit: Sophie Carlin

Image credit: Sebastian Ballard via via Creative Commons Licence

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