A message for all students about the STEP towards mental health and wellbeing study.

Dear students,

STudent Experiences in the Pandemic: STEP towards Mental Health and Well-Being

The Cambridge Asymptomatic COVID-19 Screening programme has helped in managing risks of infection and transmission, but we are aware, too, of the importance of monitoring wellbeing.

From previous research we know that lockdowns, social isolation, uncertainty and disrupted opportunities can have a considerable effect on students’ mental health and wellbeing. These are difficult times for all of us, and are likely to affect those students living in Colleges or private accommodation in Cambridge, as well as those who have not been able to return to Cambridge. We also know that there have been considerable efforts to keep our communities together and to offer support.

We would like to invite all University of Cambridge students to take part in the STEP study to monitor students’ wellbeing during Lent term. The study has been designed by a team from our School of Clinical Medicine, led by Professors Peter Jones and Tamsin Ford, with advice from undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD students, as well as CSU officers.

STEP aims to better understand how mental health and wellbeing are impacted and shaped in Cambridge students during the pandemic. This knowledge will help the University to design better wellbeing policies.

Individual student characteristics and contexts may help explain the impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health. To this end, the STEP study not only tracks mental health and wellbeing, but also tries to pinpoint risk (e.g. loneliness) and resilience factors (e.g. social support), which we hope will further enhance our understanding of potential ways to better support students.

Taking part in STEP should be straightforward: it involves a very brief daily online survey (less than 3 minutes), followed by a slightly longer weekly distress screen (less than 10 minutes). In return for taking part, we offer weekly prize draws and personalised (computer-generated) wellbeing feedback. The information you share with us will be treated confidentially and will not be shared with your College or anyone else. Only anonymised data will be shared.

Detailed information about the study can be found online at: https://www.cam.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/STEP-mental-health-and-wellbeing-study

If you have remaining questions, please email us at: STEP@medschl.cam.ac.uk.

Best wishes,

The STEP project team