The U-Flourish team is a multidisciplinary group of clinicians, academics and students representing a collaboration between the Oxford Student Union, Oxford University Wellbeing and Support Services, the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford and Queen's University, Canada.
The transition to university coincides with a critical period in development, characterised by increased autonomy and responsibility, separation from family and support networks, and development of new social connections. At the same time, the brain is undergoing continued development and individuals are at the peak period of risk for the onset of mental illness. University students are also exposed to a number of unique psychosocial stressors relating to creating new friendship groups, sleep disruption and possibly recreational drug use or alcohol binging.
More students are coming to university with different backgrounds, with varied past experiences, with different expectations, and at the same time emergent adulthood is the peak period of risk for onset of psychiatric illness that will persist if untreated and is associated with school failure and drop-out. Add in substance use and it's this kind of perfect storm of all these risk factors hitting a person right at the most vulnerable time in their development.- Professor Anne Duffy, the study's principal investigator.
Emerging research emphasises the substantial unmet need for effective care of students, with international data from the World Health Organisation indicating that up to one-fifth of university students suffer from a year-long mental health disorder. Worryingly, these student's mental health disorders were typically untreated and they were more likely to display higher rates of university drop-out. This further highlights the mounting importance for researchers, clinicians and universities to work together to put in place an evidence-based system of mental health care that meets the needs of students.
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