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Title: An exploration of mature undergraduate students' experiences of depression : an interpretative phenomenological analysis
Author: English, Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7659 5813
Awarding Body: Middlesex University/New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2018
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This research was an idiographic investigation of the first-hand accounts of mature undergraduate students with depression. Participants were drawn from one Institution of Higher Education in Ireland. The number of mature students entering Higher Education in Ireland is increasing annually. The number of individuals with a diagnosis of depression is increasing also. To date, very little research has examined the experiences of mature undergraduate students with depression, in the Irish context. The focus was on undergraduate studies as the research aimed to examine an individual's first experiences of Higher Education. As the study aimed to provide a description of an individual's experiences of studying with depression, the participants had a current diagnosis of depression and were taking antidepressant medication. It is routine in Ireland to prescribe antidepressants for mild depression (e.g. HSE, 2016). Data were collected via in-depth semi-structured interviews with eight students aged between twenty-six and fifty years. Data were examined using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith et al, 2010), which is an approach that facilitates a hermeneutic phenomenological enquiry into the unique lived experience, as well as convergences among participants. Based on the analysis of the material, the students' experiences were organised into three main themes: Journey through Academia with Depression; Managing Depression; and Altered Self. These themes indicated that the experience could be characterised as a journey through academia, with the journey getting increasingly more difficult as students entered their third and fourth years of a four-year undergraduate degree. Findings revealed that individuals had a complicated relationship with medication, and that they sought other ways in which to manage their depression. They also revealed the changes to their sense of self that they expressed as taking place during their academic journey. Individuals' accounts communicated the stigma around depression, the distinct dynamic among mature undergraduate students in relation to why they have come back into education, the difficulties in engaging in group work for individuals who experience depression, feeling isolated or disconnected, the challenges of receiving feedback on academic work, and a self-critical voice. The extent of suffering articulated by the participants leaves no uncertainty about the gravity of depression and the implications for their academic experience. Findings, which have implication for counselling psychologists working with mature students in HE, are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Prof.Couns.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available