Research into student mental illness

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NVSR) has announced it will fund a $77,000 La Trobe University investigation into why students with a disclosed mental illness are the group ‘least likely’ to complete the vocational education and training course in which they are enrolled .

student with mental illness Professor Annette Street, Associate Dean, Health Sciences  and Annie Venville from La Trobe’s School of Social Work and Social Policy, who is based at the University’s Albury Wodonga campus, will lead the project. It will also explore the role an individual’s choice to disclose or not disclose their mental illness has on their experience as a student.

This research is innovative because it aims to move beyond the existing statistical data on course completion rates and extend our understanding by listening to the experience of students..

‘We aim to capture the voice that has been largely missing from the research literature, the voice of the students themselves’ Annie says.

Current research indicates this same cohort of students is more likely to become unemployed or under-employed- even more so than those suffering physical disabilities.

‘My hope is the findings of this project will assist and equip TAFE and other VET staff to support students with a mental illness, and inform the development of guidelines for managing disclosure and other aspects of students learning experience,’ Annie says.

Existing research indicates that the majority of VET students with a mental illness do not tell educational providers about their illness.  Because of the silence surrounding mental illness, Annie says we have
‘little information about the experience of these students. This study aims to find out more about the factors that influence their choice not to disclose,’ she says. 

‘TAFE’s and other VET providers have very good equity and access programs and support networks for students with a mental illness. Despite the existence of these programs, we believe that most students do not disclose their mental illness. Decisions about who to tell and when to tell about something as important as a mental illness are intensely personal ones,’ says  Annie.

Professor Annette Street, says the grant is a clear indicator of NCVER’s commitment to addressing the nationally significant problem of poor course completions for VET students with a mental illness

‘La Trobe University is looking forward to working collaboratively with NCVER towards making a difference to the experience of learning for students with a mental illness,’ says Professor Street.  

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Mikhaela Delahunty
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m.delahunty@latrobe.edu.au

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