Opening up or not? Exploring motives, considerations and needs of students and staff of a Dutch university regarding the decision to disclose their mental health issues to inform decision aid development


Mental health disclosure decisions can be difficult, especially within universities. University students and staff might benefit from decision support. Therefore, semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff (n=10) and students (n=10), including participants who decided to (not) disclose. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire including the SURE test. Subsequently, they were interviewed about the decision to disclose and their needs regarding a disclosure decision aid. Data from the SURE test was analyzed based on descriptives, interviews were analyzed using the Framework–method. Most students (n=9) decided not to disclose, whereas most staff (n=8) did. Both students and staff described advantages and disadvantages of disclosing. Advantages included support, relief, understanding, and safety, but there were also risks, such as stigmatization and career concerns. Not disclosing can prevent unwanted questions but can also lead to misunderstandings. In short, disclosing offers opportunities and risks. Regarding decision support, both students and staff preferred a brief online tool. Both students and staff encounter challenges when it comes to deciding whether to disclose their mental health status. A decision aid can serve as a valuable tool to assist them in making informed decisions and preparing for potential conversations related to mental health disclosure.

Thomas Gültzow
Thomas Gültzow
Assistant Professor Societal Transition & Behaviour Change

I am a passionate researcher in the field of behaviour and decision making, specialising in informed decision making, behaviour change, and the influence of digital communication and interventions.