Fundamental to a student’s experience at university is where they live and this can have a large impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Building on our existing work with the student accommodation sector, we’ll be working with Student.com to reach smaller landlords across the UK.
At Student Minds we want all student accommodation providers and landlords to understand their role in supporting students to thrive at university. Over the past few years we have been working with several accommodation providers to make this a reality. In 2017 we worked with UPP and Nottingham Trent University, to develop a training scheme for front-line staff, funded thanks to the UPP Foundation. We then publicly shared our learning in our Student Living report to equip the sector with recommendations for supporting student mental health and wellbeing. We have also worked with UNITE who sponsored University Mental Health Day 2018 and share student’s experiences of mental health difficulties to really highlight the student voice on their blog, to fundraising with CRM Students and GSA, to training staff members at GSA.
Through our new partnership with Student.com we will be influencing the approaches of smaller landlords across the UK. In the Autumn, we will be providing training in the form of an online webinar and an offline session hosted at Student.com’s office.
Luke Nolan, founder and CEO of Student.com commented “With Student Minds’ expertise and Student.com’s wide-reaching landlord network, we are confident that our partnership will help empower even more accommodation providers to prioritise student mental health. We chose Student Minds as our official charity partner because of their strong expertise and experience in student mental health, and we’re proud to support their work with a donation from Student.com.”
We are looking forward to seeing a real change in the sector. Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds shared "It has been great to see a number of large student accommodation providers working to improve student mental health and using our ‘Student Living’ toolkit over the last few years, but we recognise the importance and reach of smaller landlords across the UK. Together, we need to work on preventing difficulties and ensuring students can thrive during their time at university. This partnership with Student.com will allow us to take an important step towards this goal.”
Student Minds launches new resources to support students with their transition from school/college to university
Today, half of all young people in the UK go to university. Whilst the student experience can be full of new experiences and mark the exciting journey into adulthood, many students struggle with the initial transition from school or college into university. At many universities, drop-out rates of first year students have risen for a third consecutive year (HESA) and UK universities have seen an increase in demand for student mental health support services.
In response to the challenge, we have collaborated with Canadian organisation TeenMentalHealth.Org (led by internationally-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Stan Kutcher) to ensure that this period of transition is met with information, support and guidance which supports students to succeed in their studies. Dr. Stan Kutcher, TeenMentalHealth.Org added;
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Student Minds who share our goal of improving mental health outcomes for youth by promoting mental health literacy in schools. These resources have been developed and well researched in Canada demonstrating positive outcomes and we look forward to seeing the same results across the UK.”
Today, on 6th June, we launch two resources, the first evidence-based publications of their kind in the UK, freely available to students and educators at schools and universities. Both resources help students to better visualise and prepare for their future, with topics such as; time management, relationships, identity, finances, sexual activity, mental illness, suicide, addictions, and more. ‘Know Before You Go’ provides age-appropriate guidance to young people before they leave school or college, and ‘Transitions’ contains information to support the first few years in Higher Education. Find out how you can use the resources to support your students.
About the importance of the resources, Student Minds Chief Executive, Rosie Tressler commented:
“Student mental health can be most vulnerable at points of transition, but with the right support it doesn’t need to be. Until today there has been a gap in the UK for engaging resources which really speak to sixth form, college and university students about this time of change. Whilst we’re pleased that many universities are working towards strategic approaches to mental health and better connections with the NHS, to truly tackle these issues all of our schools, colleges and universities need to bridge the transition points. We’re calling on all education institutions to share these free, online resources with their students. There’s no reason that every school and university in the UK can’t share them with their students to give them the best start to university life."
We’re delighted to have collaborated with Teen Mental Health.org and Southern Universities Network to make this a reality - thanks to these partnerships we can now provide open access resources for all students to support them with the transition to university.
Today sees the launch of new guidance focused on addressing one of the greatest challenges in student mental health - the coordination of care between the NHS and universities.
Over the last eight months, Universities UK have convened a Services Task Group, including representation from Student Minds and colleagues across the health system, to develop good practice frameworks for services and clinicians to address the variation that exists and improve mental health care for further and higher education students.
Student Minds have been working with our partners to ensure students’ experiences are at the heart of the approach, supporting the design of a student facing questionnaire and involving evidence from our previous research project ‘University Challenge’(1). The lived experiences in this guidance really highlight that NHS services are not currently adapted to the transient nature of student life, and that there is little targeted support for the specific needs of students. For instance one parent who commented;
“My daughter is in her first semester of her first year at university…our experience is a disjointed, complicated, stressful and timely one, with my observation that I have provided the role of case worker to help join up the dots, communicate and facilitate her best use of the help that’s out there. I can see how a sufferer can very easily slip through the net without this support and motivation.”
About the guidance, Student Minds’ Chief Executive, Rosie Tressler commented;
“The launch of today’s guidance for NHS leaders is an important milestone in transforming the state of student mental health. Not a week goes by without us hearing from either a student or a parent desperately trying to advocate for support in a system that is not currently set up for student life and the transitional nature of this health population of 2.3 million.
It’s important that the difficulties students experience in transitioning from home to university health services are brought to the forefront for NHS professionals. Whilst there are examples of best practice in some cities, a postcode lottery for student support exists.
This guidance starts the conversation on how change can be achieved, putting at the heart of it a focus on prevention, collaboration, co-production with students, and a recognition of responding to the diversity of the student population. We look forward to seeing how the 'place-based' partnership approaches which are taking place in areas such as Greater Manchester, Bristol and North London can expand, to ensure across the UK our health systems respond to the needs of students and transform young people’s futures.”
(1) Back in 2013, Student Minds undertook research to assess the impact of university transitions on access to treatment for students with eating disorders. This led to a report ‘University Challenge’, which involved engaging students, professionals and other key stakeholders in exploring the challenges students face. The research highlighted Recognising this we launched a campaign calling on the Department of Health to fill the gaps in student mental health support, and over 2,200 of our supporters signed a petition which called on the Department of Health to address the specific needs of students.
Thank you to all of the students, parents, health professionals, press ambassadors, and wider supporters that have taken part at all stages of this work to reach today’s important milestone.
This month UWE launched its Mental Wealth First Initiative, setting out its strategic response to a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing, in response to the StepChange framework. We have been working with UWE, York and Cardiff to support students to input into their strategy development. Student Minds Policy Manager, Rachel Piper, spoke at the launch event. In this post we share some of her key messages and a recording of her speech.
We believe that those with lived experience of mental health difficulties - the ones receiving, seeking or in need of support - are experts by experience, and therefore should be active participants and partners in shaping a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing at their institutions.
At Student Minds, we are excited to be empowering a movement of students to advocate for change towards positive mental health and wellbeing at their universities. We have enjoyed supporting the development of UWE’s Mental Wealth First initiative to involve students in codesign and co-production. The HEFCE funded programme has also supported us to work with Cardiff and York, and Universities UK to look at the best ways for effective collaboration between students and universities.
From this we are learning about what works, and we will be sharing this with the sector. The activities require careful training and support to ensure this is a positive and empowering experience for those taking part and set within the wider national context about student wellbeing.
Universities must foster genuinely supportive environments which empower those with lived experience to contribute to choices around service and provision delivery, and input into health strategies at the university. This should not be about putting the onus of campaigning for adequate support on those that are experiencing mental health difficulties, but rather, providing ample and clear opportunity for all students to contribute.
Our full report about co-producing with students on strategy is launching later this year.
Today there have been a number of reports in the media about a research study looking at data on student deaths by suicide. We understand that it's not easy for any students, family members or members of the university community to read about these very difficult issues and we encourage anyone affected to look after yourself and reach out to others if required (please see links provided below).
At Student Minds we are working with a number of organisations to improve prevention, but we know there is a lot more to be done and won't stop until every university and health providers have implemented national evidence - based guidance. There is also more that we need to understand as a society in order to respond from an informed starting point, and we are eager to hear the findings from research being undertaken in a few universities in the UK.
We think it’s important to also note that there has been some debate between academics around the methodology and possible assumptions underlying the particular study being shared this week, and anticipate there will be further analysis and discussion in the future as more data becomes available.
We encourage sensitivity from anyone reporting on these issues in the meantime, remembering that we all have a responsibility to ensure we do not put other people at risk. Guidance on safe reporting is available on the Samaritans website.
Are you looking for support?
Research into student mental health suggests that broad support networks can help recovery from, and management of, mental health difficulties. Your wider support network might include friends and family, your GP, University counselling / wellbeing services.
Are you feeling actively suicidal?
If you are feeling like you want to die, please consider that many people who have attempted or come close to suicide look back with gratitude that they were not successful in acting on their intentions.
If you are feeling actively suicidal now:
Student Minds works with various members of the university community; students, Student Services staff, Students’ Union colleagues and University Sport and accommodation staff. Through these networks and a number of our research projects (Grand Challenges, Student Voice Forum), recurring concerns have arisen about the role of academics in supporting student mental health. In response, in 2016 we commissioned research to be undertaken directly with academics to better understand their experiences.
Today we release the findings of this research, with the launch of our report Student Mental Health: The Role and Experience of Academics which provides new insights into the role of academics in supporting student mental health.
The report authors, Dr Nicola Bryom and Gareth Hughes, interviewed 52 academics with diverse experience, at five universities. These academics identified that responding to student mental health problems is now an inevitable part of the academic role. However, this crucial frontline role is currently invisible, and the higher education sector does not currently have the appropriate structures or cultures to assist academics.
Researcher, Dr Nicola Byrom, told us “Interviewing people for this project, I was struck by the depth of care and concern most academics felt for their students and by the deep sense of frustration felt in the situations where adequate support was not readily available for students.’
What does this mean for universities?
In 2017 Universities UK published the #StepChange framework, encouraging leaders across the Higher Education sector to take a whole university approach in response to student mental health. Many universities are now developing their response to Step Change. Our research demonstrates that academics need to be a priority area within the development of an institution's mental health strategy and their wider organisational strategy. Academics are often a student’s key point of contact , and this interaction can significantly impact on a student’s experience. For a university to progress towards a whole-university approach, they must ensure that the role of academics in relation to student mental health is functioning well.
One of the report authors, Gareth Hughes, commented: ‘"I hope this research helps us all to think a bit more clearly about what we mean by a whole university approach to mental health. For me personally, there are four key lessons from this report; 1. we need to be clear about what we expect of the academic role, 2. we need to recognise that signposting is a complex task, 3 we need closer working relationships between academics and student services and 4. across the sector, students services need to be resourced so they can meet the needs of students, so that academics aren't put in situations where they are providing this level of support to students."’
We hope that this report encourages universities to recognise the benefits of providing additional support to students and academic departments around mental health - such as resourcing senior academics to put in structures to support the wellbeing of their staff. . This will have a range of positive outcomes for students, staff and the institution.
As Dr Nicola Byrom points out ‘Our research indicated that resourcing Student Support Services could free up academic time and energy for teaching and research while ensuring better outcomes for students and reducing institutional risk.’
Commenting on the research, Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds said,
‘This research is the first study to really get to grips with the role of academics within student mental health - both the positives and the challenges of this. Evidently Academics are a vital but often unrecognised part of the support available to students at universities. Students will reach out to whoever they feel comfortable with, so in order to ensure that students get quick access to support, institutions must support academics to be mental health literate and have roles with clear boundaries, whilst improving collaboration between academia and student services. This must be backed on a strategic level through a whole university approach to student mental health and wellbeing.
This work wouldn’t have been possible without the openess and honesty of academics and students. We hope that senior university leaders will follow our lead and ensure they truly co-produce their solutions and strategies with those who are on the frontline, as that’s how we’ll transform the health of the university community.”
For a full list of recommendations and the report visit: www.studentminds.org.uk/theroleofanacademic
To kick off the year we are very excited to announce the launch of our brand new website.
Since 2009, Student Minds has grown from a student led project into a national movement with a training arm and policy influence. Key to our approach is ensuring that young people have agency, whilst empowering the community around them to have the tools to respond. We have achieved a lot as a small charity on a modest budget but as we grow we think that it is paramount for our website and brand to reflect the goals that we are aiming to achieve.
We have been working hard to refresh the content and design of our website, to make it easier for you to navigate and get the information that you want. Through these changes, we hope to increase our online presence, continue to build the student mental health movement and for everyone to have better access to resources, information and support.
With the support of Baringa, an independent business and technology consultancy, we spent time looking into the key users and their journeys on our website. From this we carried out a full content audit of what was on our website, looking at how this fitted with our user journeys and more importantly, what didn’t fit.
After creating a new website structure we did a thorough refresh of all of our content. Our in-house designer, Krishna, then created our new site, implementing our refreshed brand.
The ethos of our refreshed brand is “empowering, supportive, approachable.”
Our aim is for this refreshed visual identity to speak to students and university staff as well as the other organisations and individuals that we work with, whilst maintaining the core values and identity of Student Minds. As such we have a new bold, varied and welcoming colour palette that catches your attention and highlights information. We are using more photos of our volunteers, championing the student voice and what they are doing on the ground.
If you need a refresher, this is a quick before and after:
We’d like to thank and recognise everyone who has been involved in this process. Including those who completed our survey, our Steering Group for focus groups on our branding, Oblique who provided feedback on the brand refresh and to Baringa who provided pro-bono support to allow this to happen.
We hope you like the new site!
On Monday 4th of December 2017 the Department of Health and Department for Education published Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper.
The proposals set out in the green paper include:
In response to the Green Paper, our CEO, Rosie Tressler has said:
‘We welcome the recognition from government that the mental health of young people must be better supported. These proposals will begin to address some of the challenges our communities can face, but we recognise that for the NHS, education institutions and other partners to deliver significant and meaningful change, substantial financial investment will be required.
In response to some of the headline recommendations, we welcome the promotion of mental health literacy programmes in schools as these have the potential to support vital early intervention, prevention and help-seeking as well as improving academic outcomes. We are keen to see further detail about how it will be ensured that suggested minimum waiting times for NHS services lead to real improvements in the speed of access to treatment for young people as soon as possible, as currently there can be a substantial delay between a student's first referral and access to treatment.
We are pleased to see that this report has extended the focus to age 25, and as such the experience of university students. Our previous research has highlighted the difficulties that Higher Education students can face in transitioning from Children (CAMHS) to Adult Mental Health Services. It is crucial that transitions between services happen as effectively as possible. We support plans for a new national partnership to improve mental health services for young people aged 16-25, and hope that as well as focus on developing interventions for young people there is active co-production on solutions with them. Partnership working will be key to addressing the unique challenges of this age group, particularly in transitioning from school to university and out of university into the workplace.’
Student Minds will be contributing to the consultation, through consolidating feedback from our student Policy Panel, graduate Steering group and our broader network over the coming weeks to ensure that student voices are heard. Check the Student Minds website in January for further details.
We are aware of a number of articles in circulation relating to a university professor and their email to students about alcohol and studying.
We really value the topic of student mental health being discussed in the press and have seen how important this can be in promoting positive and supportive messages. Unfortunately, a couple of articles released this week have added to a long list of pieces from particular media outlets which have sought to wrongly demonize students, academics and universities. These articles do not show the full picture and are trying to divide the Higher Education community.
It is legitimate for the community to have collaborative conversations about what is expected from students undergoing a degree. It’s also vital that we listen and respond to students who are raising concerns about the range of pressures that they experience. Students deserve to have a voice about these competing demands, from financial pressures to balancing part-time work with study, and anticipating the competitive job market.
Students are right to encourage each other to prioritise their health alongside balancing a fulfilling course of study that is right for them. A number of students can become isolated, which is a risk factor to developing mental illness. We need to encourage students to build the necessary support networks and friendships with which to thrive at university, as well as encouraging positive interactions between academics and students. Ultimately, if we support one another to create academic communities where students can thrive this will be good for retention, student satisfaction and academic outcomes.
Student Minds works with students, academics and a range of university support staff and we know that this whole community is working to critically engage with the issues surrounding mental health and alcohol productively. A range of programmes are underway across the UK to improve mental health literacy and the range of support across institutions.
Some articles that are currently circulating are doing a disservice to all involved and have lost the nuance of this issue. We strongly criticise the narrative of these articles, which promote offensive attitudes about mental health. As a society we need to acknowledge this is a complex issue needing structural change.
We welcome more nuanced articles about student mental health in the media and will happily speak to journalists wanting to change this outdated narrative and help transform the state of student mental health.
For further information about support available to university students at university please visit our website here.
For our press hub and press guidelines visit our website here.
Our volunteers and staff team were delighted to take part in the World Mental Health day celebrations at Buckingham Palace. At the event we were fortunate enough to speak with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry about university students' mental health. In particular, his Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge reflected with the team about the particular challenge of the transition both from school to university and also from university into the workplace.
The Heads Together team and Royal Foundation have improved public awareness about mental health and have some exciting plans across the mental health sector. This energy makes us all the more determined to keep working hard with our amazing volunteers and university and charity partners to develop a thriving Higher Education community.