Mental health coping strategies and support needs among marginalised further and higher education students in the UK: A cross-sectional study

Liverpool, Shaun, Moinuddin, Mohammed orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9364-390X, Bracegirdle, Katie, Eddison, Jade, Joseph, Seyi, Aithal, Supritha, Allen, Eve, Carmichael-Murphy, Parise, Marsden, John et al (2024) Mental health coping strategies and support needs among marginalised further and higher education students in the UK: A cross-sectional study. PLOS Mental Health .

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Students who are marginalised based on varying identities, backgrounds and characteristics are highly vulnerable to mental health challenges, but many do not receive appropriate support from healthcare services. Several barriers have been identified, including cultural and systemic factors. Therefore, everyday coping strategies and support in different settings are vital. This study examines the mental health coping strategies and support needs among marginalised students in the United Kingdom (UK). We analysed qualitative and quantitative data from a cross-sectional survey conducted between December 2021 and July 2022. Statistical analysis was conducted on data obtained using the abbreviated version of the Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced Inventory (Brief-COPE). Qualitative content analysis was applied to data collected using open-ended questions. From a subsample of 788 further and higher education students, 581 (73.7%) students (M = 25 years, SD = 8.19) were categorised as marginalised based on ethnicity, sex/gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, first language, birth country, age (i.e., mature students), and having special education needs/disabilities. Marginalised students had significantly higher scores for problem-focused, emotion-focused and avoidant coping strategies/practices compared to other students. Coping strategies included talking to friends and family, practising religion or spirituality, engaging in creative/innovative activities like hobbies, using entertainment as a distraction, waiting to see if things improve and isolating. Students expressed a need for improved or tailored services, additional academic support, and appropriate social support. These included contemporary approaches to support mental health, such as online provisions, regular mentor/personal tutor meetings, lowered academic pressures and opportunities for organised peer support. The findings from this study highlight significant and timely evidence on coping strategies and support needs among a wide range of marginalised student groups in the UK. This study provides important knowledge that is useful to inform personalised culturally appropriate mental health support that can be offered in education settings.

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