Students ' understandings of mental health and their preferred learning platforms

Claire Bone (Research assistant, Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Pat Dugard (Psychology, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK)
Panos Vostanis (Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Nisha Dogra (Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Publication date: 21 December 2015



The purpose of this paper is to examine students’ understandings of mental health and their learning preferences, in order to provide guidance for developing targeted mental health education.


A study-specific self-administered questionnaire was used at two English schools (n=980; ages 11-18), incorporating a combination of open-ended and fixed-choice items. Data were subject to content analysis, cross-tabulation of frequencies and statistical analyses.


Overall, students understood mental health in terms of personal attributes or disorder, however older students were more likely to talk about relationships. Males were less likely to say they wanted to learn about mental health than females, believing they had no need to learn more. White students were also less interested in learning about mental health than Indian students. Overall, students said they would not use social media to learn, however Indian students were most likely to want to use it. Younger students preferred school-based learning to online.

Research limitations/implications

The questionnaires were study specific and self-report. However interesting demographic variations in responses were found, worthy of further exploration.

Social implications

Policymakers should consider targeted mental health interventions in schools and research the potential roles/barriers of the internet and social media. Long-term possible benefits relate to improved preventative strategies within schools.


Previous research has focused on the delivery of mental health promotion/education in schools, whereas the current study drew on a large sample of students to understand how they define mental health for themselves, as well as how they prefer to learn about it.



Bone, C., Dugard, P., Vostanis, P. and Dogra, N. (2015), "Students ' understandings of mental health and their preferred learning platforms", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 185-195.

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