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Positive mental health literacy: creative strategies for self-care and promotion of good mental health amongst University students – a co-created project

Project: Research


This is a consultation to inform a co-created research project with students on mental health literacy. The project’s focus will be on positive mental health literacy practices, specifically creative reading and writing practices for self-care and self-help, used by students to manage the demands of their studies and to deal with mental ill health. Results from this consultation will inform the development of a funding proposal to the AHRC.

The project draw on my and collaborators’ prior work on health literacy/mental health literacy, on creativity and literacy, on student mental health literacy and on bibliotherapy. The relevance of creative writing (e.g. poetry, comedy), creative recordkeeping through bullet journals, blogging and social media creation, and other reading and writing practices to support good mental health, has been identified in previous research. Students engage in a range of literacy practices to develop an understanding of their mental health and manage their mental wellbeing. Digital platforms, including social media sites and apps, as well as pen and paper, play a role in supporting these practices.

To enable us to develop a convincing funding proposal, we need to consult students on the focus and methods of this project and to discuss with them engagement and impact activities. We envisage that a core element of the project will be for students to share and showcase their stories and strategies. The main purpose of the consultation is to seek students’ feedback on our ideas. We will use an online survey and run several focus groups to receive feedback on our ideas from students. this consultation will also provide us with initial insights into the core themes of the planned project, thus serving as a pilot activity.

The planned project is timely, addressing the growing crisis of student mental health (de Pury and Dicks 2020; Farrell et al. 2019) and the urgent need for Universities to support students to deal with challenges to their mental health while studying. The Covid 19 pandemic has added to these challenges and student mental health has become an urgent issue calling for new research and attention.

Mental health literacy (MHL) is a factor contributing to good mental health and to the ability to deal with mental ill-health. MHL is commonly understood to refer to knowledge, beliefs and attitudes about mental disorders and their treatments (Jorm 2019). There are very few studies into student mental health literacy amongst UK students and those which do exist consider MHL in a limited perspective MHL research has also been criticised for ignoring positive mental health literacy, i.e. self-care strategies, and for neglecting the importance of mental health promotion (Bjoernsen et al. 2018). The planned study seeks to address these issues, and contribute to a revised concept of MHL.

The planned project responds to the urgent need to develop MHL research for and with students, adopting a focus on self-help, positive MHL and addressing stigma.

Layperson's description

This is a consultation to seek students' views on a planned research study about positive mental health strategies: about what students do to look after their mental health. We want to develop a larger project on this topic but need to discuss it with students first, to seek their views on how it should be researched and what the focus should be.
Short titlePositive mental health literacy
Effective start/end date1/04/2231/07/22