Life as a student can be great and exciting, but sometimes involves situations that may appear tough or demanding. At times, you may need support in how to handle things.
To give Umeå University better opportunities to offer our students the right support when they need it, we participate in a project about, and for, students' mental health, which is run by the World Health Organization, WHO.
Who receives the survey and how long does the project last?
As a first step, we need to know how our students feel and whether their mood changes during their studies. Therefore, every semester we invite all first semester undergraduate programme students to fill in a health questionnaire. The same students will then receive annual follow-up surveys for the rest of their study period. The survey group will be expanded gradually so that new undergraduate programme students during the upcoming semesters will also be invited to participate.
The questionnaire to our new students during the spring semester 2023 was sent out in April. Undergraduate programme students starting their studies at Umeå University during the autumn semester 2023 will be given the opportunity to fill in the health questionnaire in November.
About the project
The survey is part of the global research project "World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS)". The long-term project goal is to prevent mental illness in students by systematically following up on how students are doing and developing and offering quality-assured initiatives for students who need support for being in as good health as possible. Umeå University has participated since 2021.
In total, Sweden's universities and colleges together have around 400,000 students per semester. Conducted surveys show that mental illness, including substance use, is common among students.
According to the Higher Education Ordinance, each institution of higher education has a responsibility to promote mental health, especially through preventive measures. How that assignment is solved at each institution varies as a result of the institutions' independence; some, such as Umeå University, run their own student health service, while others have procured the service from private companies. This means that there can be large differences between the universities when it comes to the possibility of offering students systematic and quality-assured support.
In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated the international student health project World Mental Health International College Student (WMH-ICS) Initiative, under the leadership of Professor Ronald C Kessler at Harvard University, USA. In the spring of 2019, Sweden joined the project, with Professor Anne H Berman, Uppsala University, and Senior Lecturer Claes Andersson, Malmö University, as nationally responsible researchers. Umeå University has participated from 2021 onwards.
The Swedish project received funding from the Swedish Research Council for the initial phase. The long-term ambition is for the project to subsequently receive continuous funding and include all Swedish higher education institutions and students.
What is being done within the project?
Researchers, student health services and student unions collaborate to achieve the goals of the project, which is to implement a scalable structure for systematic and continuous follow-up of students' well-being at local, national and international level, and to develop a platform to make available and quality-assure preventive measures and treatment.
The work is done in three key areas:
Annual web-based surveys of first-semester program students to collect epidemiologic data
Development and evaluation of digital interventions for mental illness
Dissemination, implementation, and quality assurance of evidence-based methodology.
The annual survey contains questions that are used by all participants in the global project. In addition, it contains nationally adapted questions that have been selected in collaboration with participating researchers, universities, student health services and student unions. From the autumn semester 2021, a treatment study with an experimental design will also be carried out.
At Umeå University, the Student Health Service within the Student Services Office coordinates the project. The University Management and the student unions are participating actors. The Swedish Research Council contributes with around SEK 5 million to the Swedish part of the project. In addition to Umeå University, a number of Swedish universities and colleges are participating, including the universities of Gothenburg, Uppsala, Stockholm, Malmö, Linnaeus University, and the Royal College of Music.
If you have questions about the project, you can contact nationally responsible researchers via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Ann-Kristin Sandström at the Student Health Service within the Student Services Office, if you have questions about the survey.