Pathways to mental health and wellbeing: Understanding and supporting students during critical school-to-work transitions

Mental illness amongst students in higher education has increased in recent years.  Several contributing factors have been identified, including the growing number of students with pre-existing problems who are pursuing university and the fact that emerging adulthood is a time of developmental vulnerability to social pressures. Other key factors include academic pressure, the financial burden of student debt, and increasing uncertainty around making a successful transition to the workplace. These pressures are often more pronounced for minority students – in particular ethnic and sexual minority students. Peer support and connectedness to school have been identified as key areas for building protective factors for positive mental health outcomes and lower rates of health-risk behaviours. Many higher education institutions also offer work-integrated learning programs (WIL) to help ease students’ financial burden and increase their level of employability. However, participation in WIL may impact on students’ academic and social support networks. For instance, programs in which students participate in off-campus work placements (i.e., co-operative education) can cause disruption in students’ connectedness to school and their perceived level of social support. This chapter examines the intensification of mental health problems on campus and explores the importance of sense of belonging and social support as protective factors. Furthermore, the chapter explores how WIL can both protect and hinder students’ mental health and wellbeing and examines current evidence for interventions that can help students prepare for their school-to-work transition. 

In "Work-integrated learning in the 21st century: Global perspectives on the future" (T. Bowen, & M. T. B. Drysdale)