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CASE STUDY: A University Dives Deep Into Student Mental Health

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Increased reporting of mental health issues for students meant a prominent university was concerned to meet their duty of care obligations. They used Plaetos to hear directly from students what they were experiencing, and exactly how, when and why university practices and services impacted them.


A prominent university needed to give its students a say in shaping mental health support services on campus.

  • Increased reporting of mental health issues for students challenges all universities

  • Student mental health is strongly linked to better student outcomes

  • The university was concerned to meet their duty of care obligations to students

The university needed to understand what students were experiencing, and how the university practices and services might be a barrier to their experiences and grades – but how, when and why needed to come from students themselves.


A random sample of university students was invited, and a small (64) cohort of students talked over a week about their experience of the university’s services - the good and the bad, and the differences between them.

They talked about:

  • The difference between resilience and connection, and what it meant for students with mental health challenges

  • Actions by the university that might compound mental health issues, rather than reduce them

  • Who - the university or students - was responsible for what with regard to mental health, in which circumstances, and

  • Initiatives and models for change.


Students spoke with raw, deeply personal candor about their mental health experiences - some were common, and many were different.

The data through Plaetos showed shared themes in responses across each of the four conversations, revealing that:

  • The greatest value would come from the university understanding their plight as students ⁠— without infantilizing them

  • University bureaucracy and administration could either help or exacerbate students’ mental health issues significantly.

The university could then translate these insights into strategy by:

  • Providing extra help at "peak stress" times, and a new model for triaging the right therapeutic interventions

  • Training their frontline professional and academic staff at the faculty level to respond, in the first instance, and then refer students to the appropriate support services if needed

  • Improving awareness of, and more fine-grained accessibility to, adequately-resourced counselling and psychological services

  • Creating specifically tailored safe places, both physical and online, as solutions to reducing disconnection and building resilience.


The feedback through Plaetos allowed the university to hear directly from their students what they really thought, not what they thought they were supposed to say.

As a result, the university knew precisely what would return greatest impact for cost savings and resource investment, and what wouldn't. The learned when and how to help their students build the resilience and connectedness necessary to improve their mental health.

A measurement program is expected to produce improved student outcomes, as well as save funds in better-allocated resources to meet student needs for mental health support.

“I was astonished by the depth the stories gave us. It absolutely had a direct impact on our strategy.” -Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education
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