University academic staff members as gatekeepers of mental health for graduate students

Punjabi, Ashwini (2023) University academic staff members as gatekeepers of mental health for graduate students. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Mental health challenges are six times higher in graduate students compared to the general population. Despite the strikingly high numbers, very few students seek professional help. This study aims to determine if academic staff members (ASMs) are potential gatekeepers of mental health for graduate students, as they are well-positioned to offer an initial point of contact to connect students in distress to professional help sources. A total of 125 ASMs at a large teaching and research university in Canada completed an anonymous online survey that measured multiple factors associated with being a mental health gatekeeper, such as mental health literacy, preparedness and self-efficacy, using the Mental Health Literacy Scale (MHLS), Gatekeeper Behavior Scale (GBS) and Gatekeeper Self-Efficacy Scale (GKSES), respectively, along with demographic and professional information. Open-ended questions on types of support and/or training required were also included to understand what changes need to be adopted for ASMs’ work organization upon taking the role of a gatekeeper. The data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, including one-way ANOVA, to compare differences among genders, academic disciplines and academic ranks. ASMs demonstrated higher mean scores in all three outcome measures: mental health literacy (M=123, SD=23), gatekeeper behavior scale (M=62, SD=21) and gatekeeper self-efficacy scale (M=37, SD=14) as compared to previous studies. There was a significant difference in mental health literacy among academic disciplines (F(2,120)=7.8, p=0.001) and academic ranks (F(3,121)=3.9, p=0.01). The findings also indicated significant differences in both preparedness (F(2,120)=5.9, p=0.003) and self-efficacy (F(2,120)=9.2, p=0.000) between academic disciplines. No difference was found between genders in any of the three outcome measures. The participants recognized the need to support students but did not feel adequately prepared to recognize mental health challenges or feel knowledgeable about how to support students. ASMs in this study revealed the need for appropriate gatekeeper training and addressed effective strategies, coping tools, and resources that the university can implement to support them. Thus, ASMs can be potential gatekeepers of mental health for graduate students if they can receive appropriate training and support from the university to help their graduate students effectively when needed.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15954
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-86)
Keywords: mental health, graduate students, university, academic staff members, gatekeeper of mental health, gatekeeper training
Department(s): Human Kinetics and Recreation, School of > Kinesiology
Date: January 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Graduate students--Mental health; Graduate students--Mental health services; Education, Higher--Psychological aspects; Universities and colleges--Professional staff--Mental health

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