Mental health coping strategies and support needs among marginalised further and higher education students in the UK: A cross-sectional study

SHAUN LIVERPOOL, Mohammed Moinuddin, Katie Bracegirdle, Jade Eddison, Seyi Joseph, SUPRITHA AITHAL, Eve Allen, Parise Carmichael-Murphy, JOHN MARSDEN, HAYLEY MCKENZIE, CIARAN MURPHY, MICHAEL OWEN, Tasneem Patel, Naseem Raji, LYNSEY ROOCROFT, Ken Fletcher, Vicky Karkou

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Students who are marginalised based on varying identities, backgrounds and characteristics are highly vulnerable to mental health challenges, but many do not receive appropriate
support from healthcare services. Several barriers have been identified, including cultural
and systemic factors. Therefore, everyday coping strategies and support in different settings
are vital. This study examines the mental health coping strategies and support needs
among marginalised students in the United Kingdom (UK). We analysed qualitative and
quantitative data from a cross-sectional survey conducted between December 2021 and
July 2022. Statistical analysis was conducted on data obtained using the abbreviated version of the Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced Inventory (Brief-COPE). Qualitative
content analysis was applied to data collected using open-ended questions. From a subsample of 788 further and higher education students, 581 (73.7%) students (M = 25 years,
SD = 8.19) were categorised as marginalised based on ethnicity, sex/gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, first language, birth country, age (i.e., mature students), and having special
education needs/disabilities. Marginalised students had significantly higher scores for problem-focused, emotion-focused and avoidant coping strategies/practices compared to other students. Coping strategies included talking to friends and family, practising religion or spirituality, engaging in creative/innovative activities like hobbies, using entertainment as a distraction, waiting to see if things improve and isolating. Students expressed a need for
improved or tailored services, additional academic support, and appropriate social support.
These included contemporary approaches to support mental health, such as online provisions, regular mentor/personal tutor meetings, lowered academic pressures and opportunities for organised peer support. The findings from this study highlight significant and timely evidence on coping strategies and support needs among a wide range of marginalised student groups in the UK. This study provides important knowledge that is useful to inform personalised culturally appropriate mental health support that can be offered in education settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalPLOS Mental Health
Early online date17 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2024


  • Mental Health
  • Healthcare Services
  • Marginalisation

Research Institutes

  • Health Research Institute

Research Centres

  • Research Centre for Arts and Wellbeing
  • Sport and Mental Health Research Centre
  • Centre for Social Responsibility

Research Groups

  • Inclusion, Diversity and Identity Research Network (Education)
  • Higher Education Research Network


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