Informal support at universities is key to student well-being

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University life can be very stressful and stressful while being a most exhilarating experience for many students. This polarity is why it’s so difficult to address mental health issues on campus – they’re quite individualized events.

But there are also commonalities. Entering college marks a massive transition period for most people. They begin to make independent decisions about their life and education, and face various academic, social, and financial demands. Additionally, many students are leaving their homes and the safety cushion of familiar support networks, often for the first time in their lives.

University life can be very tense and stressful for students.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Even before COVID-19, an Australian study by Studiosity found that almost half of university students wanted to drop out. In another 2016 study, over 19% of college students reported having a mental health disorder, while over 67% mentioned their mental health was poor and they experienced subclinical distress and low levels of resilience. .

Since before the pandemic, the University of Wollongong (UOW) has embarked on a journey to discover wellbeing and what it means to students. Through various surveys, we have identified that collectively the most significant stressors for students are finances and connection.

Then we realized that wellness couldn’t be achieved through particular singular actions we take after people slipped up and started feeling lost or mentally ill. Instead, we understood that we needed to help build student resilience. We want them to leave our university confident that they are not only ready to work, but ready to live.

Resilience, the mental malleability that allows a person to bounce back from adversity, is a tricky attribute to instill. Society must do this from an early age; therefore, it cannot be introduced through individual courses. Instead, it should be embedded in the curriculum and part of the fabric of the entire university culture. For example, the BRiTE model (Building Resilience in Teacher Education) aims to develop the personal and social capacities of future teachers in terms of resilience. In this way, early childhood students not only learn the depths of professional expertise, but also how to care for themselves and their well-being.

Not just hanging out... Students at the University of Wollongong promote their well-being through social connections.

Not just hanging out… Students at the University of Wollongong promote their well-being through social connections. Credit:Photo: Adam McLean

What really makes the difference is having an all-encompassing university culture that cultivates a sense of belonging. It is a universal desire.

Every student needs like-minded people and transparent procedures and routes to help them. This is essential, especially for vulnerable communities: those who identify as LGBTQI+, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, for first generation students or an international cohort.

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