How OMBEA is Helping Schools with Student Mental Health

February 1st, 2022

By capturing actionable, real-time feedback from students, educators can act decisively to combat mental health issues. Read on to find out more.

It’s no secret that student mental health has been a widely discussed topic during the covid pandemic.

It’s especially salient, as 75% of students feel their wellbeing plummeted since the start of the pandemic. Depression has been especially strong. In one study, 42% of German university students were either clinically depressed, or showing symptoms of early-onset depression. In America, it is reported that 81% of High School students suffered a decline in mental wellbeing as a result of social isolation, lack of exercise, and general feelings of hopelessness.

For many schools, the most obvious way of beginning to tackle the issue is to monitor it. What are the causes of deteriorating mental health among pupils? What can schools and other educational establishments do?

The Problem with Acting on Student Health

What do you focus on?

How do you know what mental health issues need to be prioritized. What are the most salient challenges your students are going through, and what resources will you need to help them? You could ask students themselves directly, but you risk getting false or misleading information.

OMBEA partner Isle Listen faced exactly this challenge. After giving mental health workshops to student groups, they would ask for student feedback to see if they could improve on something. Students almost always refused to answer. Mental health issues can be awkward, and even shameful, to discuss with someone – especially a stranger you don’t trust yet. If your students aren’t helping you understand what they’re suffering from, how are you supposed to act?

How do you collect feedback from students?

One way to gather student feedback, without them feeling awkward about it, is to introduce anonymous mental health surveys. What’s great with surveys is that you can have teachers administer them to students directly, and send the results to the evaluating body. Now, with the power of the internet, you can also send surveys to students online.

But surveys do come with drawbacks.

First, only 30% of surveys ever get completed. In fact, 10% of respondents will stop responding almost immediately. For those surveys that do get completed, you need to control for specific biases – particularly “yea-saying.” This practice involves participants responding to surveys with only what they perceive the survey administrator wants to hear. With mental health issues, perhaps students don’t want to be subject to medical intervention, or they just don’t want to be labeled a certain way. Thus, this increases the chances they will yea-say your survey.

Is the feedback even recent anymore?

Even if you could increase student response rates, and take measures to reduce acquiescence bias, is the data recent enough to be useful?

Probably not.

When capturing student feedback for mental health, you want it to be as recent as possible. With surveys, this is impossible. The best you’d get is a snapshot of the issues at a single point in time. When the situation changes rapidly, as the COVID pandemic has taught us, the survey results become useless.

Real-time, actionable student feedback So now that we’ve discussed the problem with capturing student feedback for a sensitive topic like mental health, what is the solution?

Real-time, actionable feedback from OMBEA.

First, OMBEA lets you continuously capture feedback from students. From morning to afternoon, you get a constant feed of student responses at any given moment – no matter the question. Because OMBEA uses smiley-face emoji buttons, leaving feedback takes students just five seconds. Plus, leaving feedback is anonymous. Tracing a response to a student is impossible, making them confident that they can be honest about their mental health issues without fear of repercussions.

Because you’re getting a stream of real-time feedback, you understand what are the issues you need to target and when. To dig deeper, you can send students or parents quick open-text questions through SMS or email, asking what specific mental issues they want to see prioritized by the school. With the results, you then know where resources are best used. Furthermore, you can continuously evaluate the results of your mental health actions, giving you the certainty that what you’re doing is having an impact on your students.

These are just some of the benefits our partners at Isle Listen and Oxfordshire Schools experienced. You can read the full case studies here and here.

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