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The CHITIN Programme completed in June 2023. Final reports of the 11 CHITIN studies can be viewed on the Legacy page. The CHITIN team wish to thank the CHITIN network and all stakeholders for their involvement and commitment to the programme.

For more information on HSC R&D, please visit here


SPIT: Paper published on student mental health

SPIT is a cross-border, CHITIN funded study, which is being conducted as part of the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS).  The study, led by Dr Elaine Murray, commenced in September 2019, with over 1900 first year undergraduate students from Ulster University, Northern Ireland, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Republic of Ireland, consenting to take part in a comprehensive online survey. The main aim of Phase 1 of study was to monitor student mental health and wellbeing during their time at university and to identify and help those in need of support.

Analyses of the 2019 baseline data revealed high prevalence rates of a range of mental health and substance abuse problems, and suicidal behaviour among this cohort when they started university (Ward et al., 2022), yet many were reluctant to seek help. Overall, those who were more likely to experience psychological problems included females, students over the age of 21 and students who identified as non-heterosexual.  Moreover, variations in prevalence rates were found among different academic disciplines (McLafferty et al., 2022).  Furthermore, screening positively for probable ADHD, was a substantial risk factor for suicidal behaviour (Brown et al., 2022). A follow-up study comparing data collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with data collected in Autumn 2020, when students were commencing their second year at college, revealed that levels of depression increased significantly, while anxiety decreased (McLafferty et al., 2021).

Such findings would indicate that it is very important to monitor student mental health and wellbeing and that supports should be put in place to address the needs of third-level students.  There has been a call for more innovative support and treatments for young people.  Phase 2 of the SPIT project involved a randomised control trial to ascertain if an online CBT based intervention would help reduce symptoms in students with mild to moderate levels of depression or anxiety.  The intervention, which was available 24/7, consisted of seven weekly sessions, with written support provided by trained guides.  All participants in the trial (control and intervention groups), completed questionnaires at the start and end of the trial. Preliminary findings indicate that symptoms significantly reduced among those who received the intervention, and the decrease in depression scores remains significant 6 months post-intervention. Interviews were also conducted with a subgroup of participants and guides, with some reporting that they liked the online intervention and found it useful, while others indicated that they would prefer face-to-face support. The findings from the trial, indicating that symptoms were reduced among those who received the intervention, is very encouraging and would suggest that it would be beneficial to offer the current intervention to students as an alternative support option.

For further information please visit the SPIT website:

Pic: Some members of the SPIT team.


Brown et al. (2022). doi: 10.1177/10870547221075844

McLafferty et al. (2021).  doi: 10.1177/10870547221075844

McLafferty et al. (2022). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279618

Ward et al. (2022). doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.114314