Mental health screening in an international university residential centre

Lisa Bernstein1; Melissa J. Taylor1

1Wellbeing/Student Services, RMIT University Vietnam

The Wellbeing service at RMIT Vietnam is introducing a mental health screening instrument in its Residential Centre to pro-actively identify and offer support to students experiencing psychological distress. Vulnerability to mental illness is heightened at this time of major life change and over three-quarters of people who experience mental disorder during their lifetime will first develop a disorder before the age of 25, and around one quarter of all young people experience a mental disorder in the previous year (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007).  Furthermore, university students face numerous stressors (e.g. increased responsibilities; living away from family; pressure to succeed) which can increase the risk of, or exacerbate mental illness (Orygen, 2017). Presently, support for student mental health tends to be reactive in nature with engagement generally occurring with students who are actively seeking help, or whose condition has caused significant concern to staff. Students may not disclose or seek support for mental health due to a range of reasons, including a lack of understanding and stigma associated with mental illness (Orygen, 2017). The initiative is commencing within the Residential Centre as international students are known to be an ‘at risk’ group for psychological distress (Veness; 2016). The DASS-21 (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995) will be used. The Residential Centre houses approximately 80 students and screening will occur twice every trimester. Data will be collected and analysed to understand the level of psychological distress within this population, and uptake of services. Based on the results of the DASS-21, a process of outreach and engagement will commence. This initiative will be extended to other students identified as being at a higher risk of psychological distress. This approach is expected to improve student mental health and wellbeing, as well as academic success, while also raising awareness and providing psycho-education within the university population.



Ms Bernstein is an Australian registered and experienced Forensic Psychologist with over 10 years of experience in corrective services in New South Wales, Australia. Ms Bernstein has extensive experience in assessment and treatment of a range of psychological presentations, and also in providing supervision. She relocated to Vietnam in January 2017 where she has been working as the Senior Student Counsellor at RMIT University (Hanoi Campus) and provides psychological interventions, assessment, consultation and training to staff and students.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

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