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Development of guidelines for tertiary education institutions to assist them in supporting students with a mental illness: a Delphi consensus study with Australian professionals and consumers

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Author(s): Nicola J. Reavley | Anna M. Ross | Eoin Killackey | Anthony F. Jorm

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e43;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Mental health literacy | Tertiary students | Delphi consensus study | Mental illness

ABSTRACT
Background. The age at which most young people are in tertiary education is also the age of peak onset for mental illness. Because mental health problems can have adverse effects on students’ academic performance and welfare, institutions require guidance how they can best provide support. However, the scientific evidence for how best to do this is relatively limited. Therefore a Delphi expert consensus study was carried out with professional and consumer experts. Methods. A systematic review of websites, books and journal articles was conducted to develop a 172 item survey containing strategies that institutions might use to support students with a mental illness. Two panels of Australian experts (74 professionals and 35 consumers) were recruited and independently rated the items over three rounds, with strategies reaching consensus on importance written into the guidelines. Results. The overall response rate across three rounds was 83% (80% consumers, 85% professionals). 155 strategies were endorsed as essential or important by at least 80% of panel members. The endorsed strategies provided information on policy, measures to promote support services, service provision, accessibility of support services, relationships between services, other types of support and issues associated with reasonable adjustments. They also provided guidance on the procedures the institutions should have for making staff aware of issues associated with mental illness, mental illness training, support for staff and communicating with a student with a mental illness. They also covered student rights and responsibilities, the procedures the institutions should have for making students aware of issues associated with mental illness, dealing with mental health crises, funding and research and evaluation. Conclusions. The guidelines provide guidance for tertiary institutions to assist them in supporting students with a mental illness. It is hoped that they may be used to inform policy and practice in tertiary institutions.

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