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You are reading: ADCET Webinar: Juggling feeling capable and different: A grounded theory of studying at university while living with mental ill-health

Event information

The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET)  and the Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability (ATEND) look forward to bringing you this webinar, presented by Dr Priscilla Ennals.

This presentation reports on a grounded theory study that used a participatory framework to explore the experiences of university students experiencing mental ill-health. While between 20 and 25 per cent of university students are estimated to experience mental ill-health, little has been understood from the perspectives of students themselves about their experiences and the impacts of their ill-health on their studies.

Data were gathered through 21 in-depth interviews with 15 current students, and 12 critical reference group meetings that involved discussions between six people with lived experience of mental ill-health and the three investigators. Rigorous comparative analysis of data revealed a theoretical understanding of the process of studying for students with mental ill-health.

Being a student while living with mental illness involves doing all the usual student tasks, while juggling feeling both capable and different. Participants managed feeling different in three main ways: hanging in with difference, wrestling difference and reconciling difference. This is achieved through a range of processes that are effortful and time consuming.

Thinking about the demands of studying while living with mental ill-health provides insight into how services and supports are offered to, and accepted by students, reframing this group of students as resourceful and resilient. Sharing these findings with students who experience mental ill-health may decrease their sense of difference and isolation, and offer additional strategies for managing their experiences of difference.

Audience: This presentation is relevant for anyone interested in university student mental health: educators, student support, counselling services, administrators, students or families. It provides lived experience insights and offers ideas about how these insights might influence policy or practice. It may also be relevant for those in VET sector as some participants had also studied in this sector.


Photo of Dr Priscilla Ennals

Dr Priscilla Ennals is the Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation at Neami National a large Australian community mental health provider. She is an occupational therapist who has worked in clinical practice and academia, supporting people with mental ill-health and teaching occupational therapy students about mental health practice. She has a strong interest in participatory qualitative research approaches and working in research partnerships with people who live with mental ill-health. Her PhD research was done at La Trobe University, with supervision by Professor Ellie Fossey and Ass Pro Linsey Howie.

This webinar is free to attend, it will be live captioned and recorded.

Register here