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Bridging the Gap: How Training and Personality Affect University Staff’s Ability to Support Student Mental Health


Ellice is the Lead Business Psychologist at Green Cross Global. With a rich personal and professional background in mental health and psychology, she has decided to undertake a doctoral degree. Her research focuses on the efficacy of training interventions in higher education, specifically addressing staff’s ability to support student mental health. This research not only highlights her academic strengths but also reflects her dedication to creating meaningful change in educational and corporate settings alike. We interviewed Ellice after two years of study to see how she was getting on.


Q: What is your doctoral research about and where are you studying?

I’m studying at the University of Hertfordshire and I am delving into the complexities surrounding student mental health. My research focuses on the evident need for better training programs for academic staff but also considers the efficacy of those training programs. While training can be valuable, would you choose to speak to someone about your wellbeing based on a person’s level of training? Or are there other reasons? I will be looking at the overlooked influence of individual personalities. I’m interested to see if there are personality traits that impact how staff support student mental health. This multi-faceted approach promises a comprehensive understanding of what equips staff to effectively support students.


Q: What motivated you to pursue this particular area of research?

The escalating issue of student mental health has become a pressing concern for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). It’s not merely an academic debate; it’s a critical societal matter that directly affects the well-being of our younger generation. Given that university staff often serve as the first line of support, the importance of their preparation cannot be overstated.

My motivation for involvement in this research is also both personal and academically motivated. Initially, my master’s study revealed a substantial desire among university staff for training that better prepares them to handle student mental health issues. Additionally, my personal journey; I myself had challenges of coping with poor mental health during my undergraduate years. This fuels my passion to instigate meaningful change.


Q: Could you tell us more about the aims and methods of the research?

 The primary objective of this research is to assess how effective current training programs are and whether the staff’s individual personality traits influence their ability to support students. To achieve this, I’ll be adopting a mixed-methods approach, comprising both quantitative and qualitative data. Interviews and personality profiling will provide nuanced insights, while the effectiveness of specifically designed training programs will be evaluated through pre and post-intervention assessments.


Q: What are you expecting to find?

It’s still early days, but the initial direction of my research suggests that a staff member’s personality could be a critical factor in pastoral support roles.

I firmly believe that training is crucial for equipping staff with the necessary skills to support student mental health effectively. However, I also contend that certain temperaments and behavioural styles—such as approachability, altruism, and compassion—are inherently valuable for fostering supportive conversations. Regrettably, universities often assign pastoral roles without considering these critical factors. My research aims to provide evidence that a more thoughtful approach to both selecting and developing the right candidates is essential for the safety and well-being of both students and staff.


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your research?

As this research progresses, the value of community input and diverse perspectives can’t be understated. If you resonate with my topics, I invite (beg!) you to reach out. I find it so very helpful when people ask questions, even if just taking an interest in what I’m doing. A dialogue about these critical issues can only enrich the quality and reach of my research. So please, get in touch!

To get in touch with Ellice:
Email – ellice.whyte@greencrossglobal.co.uk

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