University staff experiences of students with mental health problems and their perceptions of staff training needs

Amelia Gulliver, Louise Farrer, Kylie Bennett, Kathina Ali, Annika Hellsing, Natasha Katruss, Kathleen M. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: University students experience high levels of mental health problems; however, very few seek professional help. Teaching staff within the university are well placed to assist students to seek support. Aims: To investigate university teaching staff experiences of, and training needs around, assisting students with mental health problems. Method: A total of 224 teaching staff at the Australian National University completed an anonymous online survey (16.4% response rate from n ∼ 1370). Data on mental health training needs, and experiences of assisting students with mental health problems were described using tabulation. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Most teaching staff (70.1–82.2%) reported at least moderate confidence in their ability to provide emotional support for students. However, many staff (60.0%) felt under-equipped overall to deal with student mental health problems; almost half (49.6%) reported they did not have access to formal training. Specific actions described in assisting students included referrals, offering support, or consulting others for advice. Conclusion: Given the high rates of students who approach staff about mental health problems, there is a critical need to provide and promote both formal mental health response training and explicit guidelines for staff on when, how, and where to refer students for help.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-256
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • gatekeeper
  • mental health
  • student
  • teaching staff
  • University


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