Exploring the feasibility and acceptability of the contents, design, and functionalities of an online intervention promoting mental health, wellbeing, and study skills in Higher Education students


Background: Substantial numbers of students in Higher Education (HE) are reporting mental health difficulties, such as mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Coupled with academic skills challenges, these difficulties can lead to decreased academic performance, low levels of study satisfaction, and eventually drop out. Student support services are facing budget cuts and can only attend to limited numbers of students, usually the ones who present with more severe mental health problems. Moreover, face-to-face contact may not appeal to those students who feel embarrassed by their problems or are afraid of being stigmatised. To address this important problem, an online psychological wellbeing and study skills support system called MePlusMe, has been developed to provide personalised support to its users. In the present study we investigated the feasibility and acceptability of the contents, design, and functionalities of the system. Methods: An offline version of the system was introduced to 13 postgraduate and undergraduate students (mean age = 31.3 years, SD = 10.25 years; 4 males) in a UK HE Institution, who presented with mild or moderate mental health difficulties. The participants evaluated the design of the system, its functionalities, and contents at Baseline and at Weeks 2, 4, and 8. Results: Participants found the system easy to use, professional, and efficient and its contents non-judgemental and informative. Participants stated that engaging with and practicing the techniques targeted at mental health difficulties led to improvements in positive thinking and self-confidence, while the study skills techniques were practical. Suggestions for further improvement included the development of an app and an option for direct engagement with professionals. Conclusions: The findings confirmed the acceptability of the contents, design and functionalities of the system, while providing useful information to inform its further development. Next steps include a feasibility study, which will test and quantify the effects on everyday functioning, mood, mental wellbeing, and academic self-efficacy after using the system, and subsequently a randomized controlled trial, which will evaluate its effectiveness.

International Journal of Mental Health Systems