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When, how and why should we involve trusted contacts when serious concerns are raised about a student's well-being?

Forbes-McKay, Katrina E.; Henderson, Sarah



This study investigates the relationship between mental well-being (MWB) and social support (SS) whilst addressing the paucity of research on students' support for emergency contact schemes (ECSs) and their views on how and when such schemes should be implemented. In total, 113 students recruited via opportunistic sampling completed an online survey including the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List - shortened version (Cohen et al. 1985), Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (Tennant et al. 2007) and questions about ECS. A correlational design used the Pearson product-moment correlation to explore the relationship between MWB and SS. A between-subjects design using independent measures t-test investigated differences in SS and MWB between those with and without a "trusted person" (TP). The preferred name was "Named Trusted Person Scheme" (NTPS), the preferred TP was parent/guardian or partner, and the preferred means of contact was Personal Tutor to mobile phone. Most students (96%) supported the use of an NTPS when serious concerns were raised about mental or physical health, personal safety or student engagement. Those opposed were concerned about a loss of agency, identifying a TP or the TP worsening the situation. MWB was positively correlated with SS, and those with a TP had higher levels of MWB and SS than those without. This study addresses the under-explored area of students' support for ECS, whilst enhancing our understanding of the relationship between MWB and SS especially amongst those without a person they can trust. This research provides valuable insights for universities looking to implement or refine such schemes, with the potential to improve students' MWB, academic achievement and retention by enhancing support.


FORBES-MCKAY, K.E. and HENDERSON, S. [2023]. When, how and why should we involve trusted contacts when serious concerns are raised about a student's well-being? Journal of applied research in higher education [online], EarlyCite. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 23, 2023
Online Publication Date Nov 7, 2023
Deposit Date Nov 22, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 22, 2023
Journal Journal of applied research in higher education
Print ISSN 1758-1184
Electronic ISSN 2050-7003
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Student wellbeing; Student mental health; Social support networks; Emergency contact schemes; University policy; Student experience
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