Rural student’s experiences of a school-based, early intervention mental health program

Elena Rudnik, Madeleine Seeary

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Background: The mental health of young people in Australia is National health concern, with almost one in seven 4-17 year-olds assessed as having a mental disorder. Schools have an important role in the provision of services for emotional and behavioural problems as many students seek help from teachers and school counselors. The ‘Doctors on Campus’ (DOCs), implemented at Nuriootpa High School, rural South Australia in 2014, is a school-based mental-health service for students involving local GP’s and Psychologists who regularly attend the school to see students with mental health concerns.

    Aims: The overall aim was to describe student experience as clients of DOCs. Lines of enquiry included access to the program, appropriateness of a school-based mental health service in regard to stigma and student satisfaction with the service.

    Methods: Individual interviews were conducted with seven students who had participated in DOCs. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and then thematically analysed using Nvivo.

    Relevance: The provision and accessibility of mental health services for adolescent students is an important issue. There are known barriers preventing young people accessing youth-friendly health services in rural communities. DOCs aims to address and reduce this barrier by bringing the health professionals, including two GPs and three psychologists, to the students at school.

    Results: Students spoke about the ease and timeliness of access to mental health support through DOCs including convenience of location and no-cost. A previous lack of knowledge about mental health services and support available and a subsequent improvement in health literacy was discussed. The importance of promotion and awareness of DOCs amongst the students also became apparent, as students were previously unaware of the existence of the program until referred by the school counsellor. Responses also indicated that appointment organisation is imperative for student satisfaction. Students spoke positively about DOCs and expressed improvements in their mental health and wellbeing, as well as improvements in school attendance and work. The perceived presence of stigma towards mental health was expressed by many students.

    Conclusions: The personal perspectives of students who have participated in DOCs provide valuable information on the effectiveness of the program. Initial results show that the provision of a school-based service improves access and enables earlier intervention for mental health issues. Currently services provided to students vary between schools. This research informs health and education policy and the potential for similar services in schools across Australia. Experience of students in other school-based services is planned.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    Event14th National Rural Health Conference - Cairns, Cairns, Australia
    Duration: 26 Apr 201729 Apr 2017 (Link to conference website)


    Conference14th National Rural Health Conference
    Internet address


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