Tampere and Jyväskylä universities cooperate to improve students’ mental health
According to a recent report from the Finnish Student Health and Wellbeing Survey (KOTT), one in three university students suffers from symptoms of anxiety and depression. Psychological symptoms among students have increased significantly, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and are clearly more prevalent among students than in the general adult population.
Both the University of Jyväskylä and Tampere University have a need for timely and effective services for students in their everyday environment. One such low-threshold service is the Student Compass (OK), a web-based well-being and life-skills programme that has been developed and extensively researched at the University of Jyväskylä since 2011.
“OK helps students to improve their mental well-being and practice psychological, emotional, and social skills that are important in studies, working life, personal relationships and life in general. Research results on the usability and effectiveness of OK show that it increases, among other things, students’ well-being, self-confidence and psychological resilience, as well as their ability to deal with stress and anxiety,” says Panajita Räsänen, a developer of the programme at the University of Jyväskylä.
According to her, students have highly individual needs when it comes to promoting well-being.
“While the independent use of an online resource is sufficient support for one person, another needs supportive individual guidance from a well-being coach. A third needs specific peer support from fellow students, and a fourth needs more targeted support from a professional. When OK was developed, all these options were carefully explored,” Räsänen explains.
Student Compass considers students’ individual needs
Based on the good experiences of the University Jyväskylä, Tampere University (TAU) purchased a user licence in spring 2020. At Tampere University, students can use the programme as a stand-alone online programme or as part of the Student’s Well-being and Life Skills course, which has already been completed by 400 students in this academic year. In spring 2022, an English-language version also became available for international students.
The experiences have been positive. Nearly 90% of students who have completed the Student’s Well-being and Life Skills course at TAU recommend the programme to their peers. More than 76% of the students also reported that they have made concrete changes in their everyday life and study practices to enhance well-being.
Study Psychologist Sonja Pelkonen from Tampere University is pleased that well-being and problems are discussed more openly than before. Students are now better at seeking support and help if they are worried about something in their studies. This is reflected in the popularity of psychological counselling services and study skills lectures.
“Students also want to develop their well-being skills in a preventative way. This need must be addressed through the principle of early intervention and by providing a variety of tools to support self-development. It is always worth investing in one’s well-being; not just when problems arise. It is great that the OK programme is available 24/7!” Pelkonen says.
Cooperation between TAU and JYU will continue
The introduction of OK has increased cooperation between the universities. In the future, the aim is also to carry out joint research to support student’s well-being.
“The better we understand, for example, the processes that explain changes in well-being the more effective is the support we can offer students. It is fascinating to collaborate with experts at JYU who have long experience of identifying such change processes,” say Elina Vierikko, University Lecturer and Mervi Vänskä, University Instructor from the Unit of Psychology at Tampere University, who develop the research collaboration.
The Student Compass collaboration has been promoted by Project Researcher Panajiota Räsänen, Senior Advisor Riikka Reitzer, Developer Rikupekka Oksanen and Professor Raimo Lappalainen from the University of Jyväskylä and Study Counselling Psychologist Sonja Pelkonen, University Instructor Mervi Vänskä, University Lecturer Elina Vierikko and Senior Specialist Suvi-Päivikki Ikonen from Tampere University.
Read more about the Student Compass on the Tampere University website.
Watch a video on the Student Compass on Tampere University’s YouTube channel.
Panajiota Räsänen, panajiota.rasanen [at] jyu.fi
Sonja Pelkonen, sonja.pelkonen [at] tuni.fi