Asia Pacific Student Services Association Roundtable 2019: Mental Wellness in Higher Education
Jointly organised by National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University, this roundtable discussion is open to APSSA members only.
17 October 2019
Title: “The mental health of students in higher education institutions in Australia and one institution’s response to addressing students’ mental wellbeing”
Presenter: Dr Jonathan Munro
For more than a century, universities have responded to student need and provided counselling and psychological interventions. Professional associations like APSSA underscore the need for counselling services and for preventative mental health initiatives and contemporary research has added to the understanding of collegiate mental health. Within universities, executives, concerned by the strong demand for counselling services and the prevalence of students taking their own lives, have begun to review/re-envision counselling and mental health services and frame wellbeing initiatives. There is commonality in the issues presented such as anxiety, depression, relationships, academic performance anxiety, perfectionism and procrastination, cultural adjustment, motivation and time management.
Going forward in the 21st Century, university counselling services can expect to experience continued demands and service managers will need to proactively address service delivery expectations and to do so within challenging constraints and the ‘fit’ of the chosen service delivery model for their institution and context. The concern about student mental health and debate about the role of counselling services within universities/colleges to deal with this is not as yet resolved and as a consequence, university counselling services will need to continue to be adept at being the campus centre for assessment, crisis response and timely and appropriate referral.
This paper intends to share an overview of the mental health of students in higher education institutions in Australia. Citing Griffith University as a case study, it then discusses an institution’s response and approach in enhancing students’ mental wellbeing, with specific focus on challenges, key strategies, and reflections.
Title: "Student Wellbeing and Mental Health at Universities: Key Challenges and Best Practices"
Presenters: Prof. Kwok Kian Woon and Assoc Prof. Victor Yeo
Universities are complex organisations, which can also be usefully considered as “eco-systems” — with the idea that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. In the same vein, we speak of a university not just as an “institution” but also a “community”: its members (students, faculty, and administrators) are socially related to each other, and are pursuing not just individual but common goals. Put simply, learning lies at the heart of the mission of the university: learning within and beyond the formal curriculum. From this perspective, student health (including mental health) or wellbeing is not only a precondition for, or enabler of, learning. It is itself an integral part of self and group learning throughout the university years and beyond.
Our presentation hinges on a few basic propositions including the following:
- Students should take a strong interest in their own health and, more generally, in health literacy as part of university learning and, indeed, lifelong learning;
- Such learning takes place through various ways, especially beyond the formal curriculum, and this includes students learning about health events or issues in their own lives (e.g. illness, stress, coping with challenges and difficulties, etc.), as well as information sharing sessions and outreach programmes etc.; and
- “It takes a village”: Student health and wellbeing is not only a personal matter, it involves all members of the community looking out for each other.
In this respect, we will also present NTU’s “campus community approach to student wellbeing”. We hope that our presentation will serve as a springboard for conference participants to share their experiences so that we learn from each other’s best practices.
Dr. Jonathan Munro
Head of Counselling and Wellbeing Griffith University
Dr MUNRO is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society's College of Educational & Developmental Psychologists and a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. He has been a psychologist since 1997 and was a District School Counsellor for NSW Department of Education and Training and a consultant for children and young people with developmental disabilities and emotional disturbance. Dr Munro is an Authorised Clinician for the NSW Children’s Court and a Regulation 7 Reporter for the Federal Court because of his special interest and expertise in the forensic assessment of children and adolescents who have been abused or neglected.
Dr Munro is the author and co-author of a number of journal articles and book chapters including the 2017 Orygen Health Under the Radar report on the mental health of Australian university students and 2019 UNESCO-IASAS Book, Global Student Affairs/Services, 3rd Edition on Counselling services in universities. Dr Munro has been an invited presenter to a number of national and international conferences on the mental health of Australian university students.
Dr Munro is currently Acting Director of Student Services and Head of Counselling and Wellbeing at Griffith University and was previously the Head of Counselling and Psychological Support Services at Southern Cross University.
Professor Kwok Kian-Woon
Associate Provost (Student Life), Nanyang Technological University
KWOK Kian-Woon has served as Associate Provost (Student Life) at Nanyang Technological University since 2011; in this capacity, he works closely with Associate Professor Victor Yeo and colleagues from the NTU’s Student Affairs Office and University Wellbeing Centre (as well as NTU’s Schools and Halls of Residence) on matters related to student development, including student health and pastoral care. He is also a professor of sociology, and his research areas include the study of mental health in Singapore. He has collaborated with researchers at the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, on population-based epidemiological studies, as well as on stigma and the effectiveness of interventions. See, for example: Subramaniam M et al (2019). “Tracking the mental health of a nation: prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in the second Singapore mental health study”, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1017/S2045796019000179
Associate Professor Victor Yeo
Deputy Associate Provost (Student Life), Nanyang Technological University
Associate Professor Victor YEO past portfolios in NTU include appointments in the Nanyang Business School as its Associate Dean (Undergraduate Student Life), Head of the Division of Business Law and the Director of the MBA (Business Law) programme. He has also served in the University’s Senate for two terms, with one term of service as a member of the Senate Steering Committee. As the Deputy Associate Provost (Student Life), Associate Professor Yeo has been instrumental in the management of students’ well-being in NTU, including developing and reviewing relevant University policies.
Day 1 (National University of Singapore)
- Registration + Welcome + Breakfast
Invited Paper 1 presented by Dr Jonathan Munro, “The mental health of students in higher education institutions in Australia and one institution’s response to addressing students’ mental wellbeing”
Breakout sessions 1: Discussion and Presentation of key points by groups
Campus tour of NUS
Visit to Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (optional)
Day 2 (Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University):
Invited Paper 2 co-presented by Prof. Kwok Kian Woon and Assoc Prof. Victor Yeo, "Student Wellbeing and Mental Health at Universities: Key Challenges and Best Practices"
Breakout sessions 2: Discussion and Presentation of key points by groups
Campus tour of NTU
Campus tour of SMU
- Closing reception
Got a question on the roundtable? email Ms Doris Tan, secretariat at email@example.com
The Asia Pacific Student Services Association (APSSA) is an international organisation with a distinctive focus on the Asia Pacific region. It is a network of student affairs professionals who are passionate about strengthening their role in tertiary education by providing positive student experiences that enhance student learning. APSSA provides a platform for global collaboration in the field of student affairs through organising international conferences, training programs, staff attachment programs and professional study visits through the Institute of Student Affairs (ISA).