Volume 4, Issue 3, November, 2018

Special Edition: Ways Forward in Mental Health, Prevention and Promotion: Voices from the Field

Guest Editor: Margaret-Anne Carter

ISSN 2201-1323




Margaret-Anne Carter, James Cook University, Australia


Potential enablers of mental health and wellness for those teaching in tertiary education

Margaret-Anne Carter and Donna Goldie, James Cook University, Australia (Pages 3 to 20)

The mental health and wellness of those teaching in Australian universities is in the spotlight. The role of teaching academics in contemporary universities is reported to be in a state of transition, moving from traditional teaching, research and management responsibilities, to more differentiated duties including management of casual staff, accreditation and administration tasks (Bennett, Roberts, Ananthram, & Broughton, 2018Chory & Offstein, 2017). Stress of heavy workloads, performance demands with fewer resources, expansion of staff roles and expectations, higher research productivity and output expectations are the common neoliberal pressures grounded in commodification and globalising marketisation of knowledge in higher education settings (Field, 2018Kinman & Wray, 2018). Such examples of neoliberal processes have been well documented, however, Dudau, Kominis, and Szocs (2018, p. 254) contend, although decreasing funding and resources brings pressure, it also invites opportunity for innovation and creativity and “identifying newer, more effective products or services, using technological advances more effectively, streamlining processes, and so on”. Additionally, for Barnett (2018), contemporary universities are uniquely positioned to embrace possibilities and change. This positioning may encompass cultivating sustainable health-promoting cultures with a focus on promoting high levels of employee mental health and wellbeing through initiatives including enhancing mental health literacy. Therefore, this paper explores the literature in alignment to the research question, ‘what are potential enablers of mental health and wellness for those teaching in tertiary education?’


Motivation to be an Artist: Insights relevant to mental health

Ryan Daniel, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia (Pages 21 to 32)

Despite the challenges associated with sustaining a career as an artist, enrolments in tertiary arts programs remain strong. The research question which underpinned this study was the extent to which artists’ motivations reflect mental health issues and whether there are implications for higher education providers. Interviews were held with twelve undergraduate artists as well as twelve artists practicing in industry, to explore what motivates them to pursue or continue a career as an artist. The interviews revealed a range of issues relevant to mental health, including what drives individuals to be an artist, what sustains their interest despite considerable challenges, and the potential for artists to be affected by or at risk of mental health conditions. The findings propose implications for higher education providers of degrees in the arts, in terms of the policies and procedures that are put in place to support both staff and students.


Paving the way for unique wellbeing intervention in visual art curricula

Eileen Siddins, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia (Pages 33 to 48)

In Australian research, curricula have been intentionally redesigned to address the mental health needs of students from different disciplines. Evidence-based curriculum reformation has been advanced for a range of specific disciplines including law, medicine and performing arts. However, there is room for further advancement of intervention within other disciplines. In Australian contexts, there is limited research that provides an evidence-base for art curriculum reformation—to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of visual art students. This paper will discuss the author’s current research, framed by the transformative paradigm, that seeks to represent the voices of visual art students by providing a needs assessment and recommendations for future curriculum reformation. By involving the students in decision-making processes of future intervention, sustainable, uniquely tailored techniques can be designed to enhance their wellbeing. In doing so, visual art students’ academic achievements, including successful completion of their degree and transition into the workforce, may also be increased.


SAFE-DRS: Health and Wellbeing in the Curriculum in the Auckland Medical Programme

Fiona Moir, Jill Yielder, Holly Dixon, and Susan Hawken, University of Auckland, New Zealand (Pages 49 to 64)

SAFE-DRS is the multi-year, multi-component health and wellbeing curriculum in the Auckland Medical Programme. SAFE-DRS is an acronym for: Self-care and skills, Access help, Focused Attention, Emotional Intelligence, Doctor as Patient and Colleague, Reflective Practice, and Stress-Resistance. This commentary argues that wellbeing curricula should be part of all medical programmes, by highlighting the evidence that links doctors’ personal health to the health of their patients, the impact on patient safety and quality of care, and implications for the workforce. The core content of the SAFE-DRS components is described, along with lessons learned from development and implementation. A link is provided to the full curriculum.  


Academic Contrapower Harassment (ACPH), and Pedagogy for Mental Health through Self-compassion: A conceptual paper

Sandra Walden Pearson and Vidya S. Athota, University of Notre Dame, Australia (Pages 65 to 80)

The application of free market principles to higher education has introduced a transactional dimension to faculty-student pedagogy. Students now grapple with the financial cost of higher education, in addition to the stress known to associate with academic performance and attainment. An established link exists between financial stress and mental health, and bullying perpetration and mental health. This link suggests fee indebtedness may assist to explain the rise of academic contrapower harassment (ACPH). Self-compassion shapes a cognitive frame of reference, correlative with enhanced mental health, through self-kindness, connection with common humanity and present moment awareness. This paper conceptualises self-compassion as a pedagogy-inclusive practice to assist a fall in ACPH incidence and a rise in personal and professional transformation, as transaction complement. The authors conclude with a conceptualisation of self-compassion as a pedagogical strategy for mental health in higher education.


A co-experience approach to improving international students’ classroom experience: a practice report from within an Australian higher education setting

Bhuva Narayan, University of Technology, Sydney (Pages 81 to 97)

Based on my experience teaching in a large metropolitan university in Australia, I discuss why we need to stop looking at the issue of international students through a deficit model, and look at the rich range of knowledge that our classrooms can gain from international students; many of them have been top performers in their home countries before they come here, but quickly get disheartened upon arrival in Australia when they find themselves stereotyped in a negative way, on top of all the culture shock and other adjustments they go through. I argue that the solutions go beyond just teachers and university support systems; we need to involve domestic students in making international students’ experience more positive, for they play a big part in an international students’ day-to-day experience in the classroom. Based on a participatory action research project within my own teaching practice, I argue that giving room for flexibility in content choice, assessment choice, and choice of modalities within the scope of a subject’s learning outcomes can yield positive results for all students as detailed in this paper.


Mental health diagnoses and relationship breakdown: Which is the chicken and which the egg?

Raquel Peel, Nerina Caltabiano, Beryl Buckby, & Kerry McBain, Department of Psychology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia (Pages 98 to 116)

Clients in therapy are typically diagnosed with mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression. However, recent statistics show that romantic relationship difficulties are one of the most common reasons for people to seek counselling in the first place. A series of 15 semi-structured interviews with psychologists around Australia revealed that romantic relationship difficulties are under-recognised in the counselling context and sometimes diagnosed and treated as anxiety or depression. Interviews also revealed that most psychologists prefer to use a non-evidenced-based approach in relationship counselling.Consequently, there is a major gap in the literature regarding the effect of romantic relationship breakdown on the mental health of individuals. Further, there are few evidence-based interventions for individual and couples experiencing romantic relationship difficulties. Therefore, it is important that psychologists explore the core issues the client is experiencing that trigger presentation for therapy prior to diagnosis.


A Community Model of Mental Health Promotion - Its Relevance in Education - The Story of MEHAC in India

Chitra Venkateswaran, and Anu Sonia Vincent, Mehac Foundation, Kochi, Kerala (Pages 117 to 124)

A community model of mental health promotion in Kerala, India - Mental Health Care and Research Foundation (MEHAC) – is designed to work proactively in the community, establishing partnerships and enabling participation to provide long term care for persons who have poor access to mental health care. The program promotes mental health literacy in schools and the wider community, knowing transforming attitudes and values toward persons with mental ill health is pivotal to paradigm change. Mental health awareness and mental health literacy sessions conducted by the MEHAC team are designed to instigate a shift in values and attitudes towards mental illness in India. Volunteering with the MEHAC project enables community members to build their knowledge, understanding and skills when working with individuals accessing mental health care. This article highlights the initiatives of MEHAC in responding to mental health issues in India, describing how MEHAC in action facilitates mental health promotion and education. 


Art-led Communitas for Developing Improved Mental Health in Higher Education in a Time of Rapid Change

Ross W. Prior, University of Wolverhampton, UK. (Pages 125 to 141)

Aimed at those who have a responsibility for policy and practice in relation to education, health improvement and community, this position paper explores how the corporatization of the modern university has arguably shifted how students see themselves – and how academics see students and how students see academics. Increasingly, education is being economized in an age of neo-liberalist ideology. Universities spend considerable resources on recruiting students, promoting why students should attend university but arguably spend far less on how they enable students to be effective learners. The author argues that it is time to pay attention to two key responsibilities in higher education: well-doing and well-being. However, it is argued in this paper that universities are far too focused on behavioural well-doing agendas and not sufficiently focused on experiential well-being of staff and students. This paper concludes that there is an urgent case for realigning higher education through acknowledging the fundamental importance of communitas – defined as “inspired fellowship” to enable human, personal, spiritual and social well-being. It is argued that universities must take seriously the mental health of their staff and students, and in so doing, the role of the arts may provide plausible answers in realigning the culture of higher education. Pages


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