Mental health, behavioural problems and treatment seeking among students commencing university in Northern Ireland

Margaret Mc Lafferty, Coral R. Lapsley, Edel Ennis, Cherie Armour, Sam Murphy, Brendan Bunting, AJ Bjourson, Elaine Murray, Siobhan M. O'Neill

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Mental health and behavioural problems are common among students commencing university. University life can be stressful and problems often exacerbate during their course of study, while others develop disorders for the first time. The WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project aims to conduct longitudinal research to examine and monitor student mental health and wellbeing. The Ulster University Student Wellbeing study, which commenced in September 2015 in Northern Ireland (NI), was conducted as part of this initiative (wave 1, n = 739), using the WMH-CIDI to examine psychopathology. Baseline prevalence rates of lifetime and 12-month mental health and substance disorders, ADHD and suicidality were high, with more than half of new undergraduate students reporting any lifetime disorder. Co-morbidity was common with 19.1% of students experiencing three or more disorders. Logistic regression models revealed that females, those over 21, non-heterosexual students, and those from a lower SES background were more likely to have a range of mental health and behavioural problems. Overall, 10% of new entry students received treatment for emotional problems in the previous year. However, 22.3% of students with problems said they would not seek help. The study provides important information for universities, policy makers and practice, on mental health and wellbeing in young people generally but particularly for students commencing university. The findings will assist in the development and implementation of protection and prevention strategies in the university setting and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 13 Dec 2017


  • Mental health
  • Mental health and psychiatry
  • Suicide
  • ADHD
  • Emotions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Drug abuse


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