The key to effectively improving students’ mental health and reducing the impact of mental illness, disorders and addictions is, FROM THE VERY EARLY THINKING AND DESIGN STAGE, to understand the student experience. This means to understand how a student understands their experience.
In this sector we are fortunate that staff and professionals care about students, and we think of ourselves as ‘student centred’, because that is the basic intent we start with. But student-centred strategies are those that are designed around a focus on the student experience. This is a different process of development. It means spending time up front understanding the range of student perspectives, and the range of contexts in which the services will need to be carried out. Then, the specific design of services can be thought through by using theory or evidence to choose which type of service will have the desired impact.
This section provides some tools for considering the possible diversity of student experiences, and can be used for the range of strategies involved in a comprehensive strategy (i.e. one that aims to cover both health promotion and illness or disorder diagnosis, treatment, and recovery-oriented services.