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A critical investigation of mental health communication initiatives: the case of a university in Australia

This research project strives to contribute to the theory and practice of critical health communication.

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Mia Castillo
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Mental health has been an increasingly important matter tackled within higher education institutions, with tertiary education students being identified as a high-risk population, not only due to their age, but also because of the additional stress associated with their educational transitions and studies. Along with programs/interventions to address these issues, mental health communication strategies are put in place mainly to help identify mental health services, improve mental health knowledge, enhance help-seeking behaviors, or combat stigma/ discrimination. 

This research takes a critical approach, aiming to better understand how conceptions or notions of mental health are discursively constructed in mental health communication initiatives of higher education institutions. The main goal is to interrogate such discourses on mental health in communication initiatives, the premise being that critical analysis forces us to be reflexive and explore dominant frameworks in various related issues to health communication. It allows the researcher, by extension, to give way to alternative frames, rationalities, and solutions that could challenge dominant structures. To be able to do this, this study will specifically focus on micro, meso, and macro levels of mental health communication processes and practices, adopting Mcleroy et al.’s (1988) ecological model as an organizing framework. Using a critical lens affords the opportunity to explore complex aspects of communication not traditionally examined by most mental health communication research. A university in Australia is being considered for the project as case study.   

This research project strives to contribute to the theory and practice of critical health communication. On a practical note, findings may potentially be the basis for recommendations to expand/improve/enhance current mental health communication initiatives of universities.


Principal investigator

Headshot of Mia Castillo

PhD Researcher