‘We barely survived’: Social work students’ mental health vulnerabilities and implications for educators, universities and the workforce


  • Susan Gair James Cook University
  • Len Baglow St Vincent de Paul Society




university studies, social work, mental health and wellbeing, poverty


INTRODUCTION: Evidence is mounting that poverty and psychological stress among university students are common and the mental health of university students is a topic of increasing attention.

METHODS: In late 2015, 2,320 social work students from 29 Australian universities completed an online survey on the impact of low income on students’ daily lives and study success.

FINDINGS: Overall, students revealed financial hardships and a precarious balancing act of study, limited finances, paid work and family. Some students revealed the impact of these hardships on their mental health and wellbeing. Undertaking compulsory field placement increased students’ financial stresses and exacerbated mental health vulnerabilities.

CONCLUSIONS: The qualitative findings reported here draw on students’ responses within the larger student survey data set where mental health impacts were reported. These findings have implications for universities, social work education, field

Author Biography

Susan Gair, James Cook University

Susan Gair is Associate Professor in Social Work at James Cook University.



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How to Cite

Gair, S., & Baglow, L. (2018). ‘We barely survived’: Social work students’ mental health vulnerabilities and implications for educators, universities and the workforce. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 32–44. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id470



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