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.
Universities UK have launched the #StepChange Framework to help improve the mental health of students and staff across Higher Education. At Students Minds, as a member of the Mental Health in Higher Education (MHHE) group, we’ve been working to support the development of the framework and today we launch our Student Voices Report, which summarises student perspectives and experiences and has been an important input into the development of the framework.
Universities UK (UUK) adopted mental health as a proactive policy priority in 2016, launching the Mental Health in Higher Education (MHHE) programme to improve the mental health of students and staff across Higher Education (HE). The 4th of September is the launch of the #StepChange framework -The framework aims to help university leadership to take a whole university approach to mental health. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have been employed to strengthen the evidence-base on mental health in Higher Education. Their independent report is available on 4 September as Not by Degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities.
This is an exciting occasion for student mental health, with Universities UK firmly encouraging university senior management to recognise student mental health and wellbeing as a university - wide priority. Student Minds been contributing to this work through the MHHE working group, where our CEO Rosie Tressler has been active in ensuring that our research and the concerns and ideas of students have been considered in the development of the #StepChange framework. Over several years we’ve worked with students and staff on the ground at over a hundred universities and have seen their passion and dedication to creating an inclusive culture where students can thrive. The #StepChange framework recognises the role that we all have to play at all levels in an institution, and in all aspects of the student experience from where they study to where they live to how they access support.
At Student Minds we believe that student engagement and activism is crucial to changing the state of student mental health across the UK. As such, we organised the Student Voice Forum with the NUS, where students shared their perspectives on their lived experience of mental health difficulties. More specifically, the student’s experiences of mental health at university and the support they need to thrive. The discussions from these sessions were taken to the MHHE working group, and have been fed into the #stepchange Framework and Not by Degrees report.
‘Our UUK #StepChange framework encourages university leaders to take a new approach to the student mental health, adopting mental health as a strategic priority and implementing a whole university approach, with students and staff involved at all stages of the journey. Student voice and student activism must be at the heart of re-configuring universities as health promoting organisations.
In the same way, the partnership with Student Minds and NUS has challenged, shaped and inspired our work on Mental Health in Higher Education.’.”
- John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy at Universities UK
Today Student Minds are publishing our initial findings from the Student Voice Forum and Student Perspectives Questionnaire in our report: Student Voices in the development of a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing. We want to thank all the students who took part in the forum and questionnaire.
The Step Change framework represents an important step to tackle the many challenges in supporting good mental health and wellbeing across the HE community, but we know there is much work to be done and will be working hard to support institutions and connected organisation's across the sector over the coming years.
Student Minds recognised for their impact supporting university student mental health at 2017 GSK Impact Awards
Last week, Student Minds received one of ten 2017 GSK IMPACT Awards, a prestigious national award presented by GSK and The King's Fund which recognises excellence in charities improving health and wellbeing in their communities. As part of the award a new video about the work of Student Minds has been created, highlighting the different reasons why students may seek support and the invaluable work the charity does to improve mental health in universities around the UK.
Norman Lamb, MP North Norfolk, has been an ongoing supporter of the charity and features in the video:
“Student Minds has grown from a very small beginning to an organisation now that works in collaboration with Universities UK, has links to over 100 universities across the country and has extraordinary credibility.”
In the video we also hear from Alex, a student who attended a Student Minds peer support group at Oxford Brookes University:
“These are people just like you. They’re there for you and if you want to talk something through, you can and there are no barriers”
Alex has experienced first-hand the range of academic, financial and social pressures faced by students, which has led to growing concerns over the state of student mental health. An estimated three-quarters of lifetime mental illness begins by the time people are in their mid-twenties, making it particularly important that young people receive the care and support they need.
Student Minds CEO Rosie receiving the award at the Science Museum ceremony Rosie Tressler, Chief Executive of Student Minds, said:
"We’re thrilled to receive this GSK IMPACT Award, which recognises the importance of our work and the fantastic contribution made by our volunteers. Last week we had the enriching experience of attending the King’s Fund leadership programme for award winners. We are already we are feeling the benefits of their expertise and look forward to putting this into practice. The award will help us develop as an organisation and continue delivering support for students in the future."
The award includes a grant of £30,000 to support the Student Minds’ growth and leadership training programme as well as production of the video about the charity. Watch the video to learn about Student Minds’ work: transforming the state of student mental health so all in higher education can thrive.
Interested in getting involved in Student Minds’ work? Contact them at email@example.com.
Following collaboration on the joint “Student Living” pilot project at Nottingham Trent University, the UPP Foundation and Student Minds have launched a student mental health guidance pack. The report is focussed on cross-organisation collaboration to support student mental health in the place where students spend most of their time, their accommodation.
For university students, the uniqueness of living in an environment where hundreds of young people live in the same place for the first time can constitute a major life transition. If a student is experiencing mental health difficulties, it can often be accommodation staff - a cleaner, the night porter or security staff - that pick up on issues. As such, if the HE sector is truly going to deliver a strategic, whole-university approach to mental health in our institutions, the approach must involve accommodation professionals.
The guidance pack - entitled “Student Living: Collaborating to Support Student Mental Health in University Accommodation” – concludes the joint pilot project, an initiative focused on training front-line staff and student resident assistants at Nottingham Trent University in supporting student mental health. The report uses the evidence from this project, interviews with frontline staff and experts, and input from students and graduates as well as case studies, to provide the HE sector with a series of recommendations on how to support mental health, particularly those living in purpose built student accommodation.
The report explores 6 key topics that can support university and accommodation colleagues to implement this approach; Auditing referral pathways and policies, workplace wellbeing strategies for staff, mental health & welfare training for accommodation staff, provision of information and resources for students, community building, and designing buildings for wellbeing.
About the programme Dr Paul Marshall, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the UPP Foundation, said:
“One of the key UPP Foundation goals is increasing student retention and helping to erode the barriers many students face to remaining in higher education. Student mental health is an extremely important issue and the UPP Foundation recognises the unique difficulties that can arise for students with mental health issues whilst studying at university. From a university perspective, it remains vital to adapt a strategic approach to wellbeing and invest in mental health. Cultivating environments and communities that are supportive of mental health, and providing timely access to support services, is the most effective approach to reducing mental health difficulties in our society. We are extremely proud to have been involved in this exciting opportunity with Student Minds to develop a research-led, bespoke project in UPP accommodation at Nottingham Trent University and are confident that our resulting guidance pack will help to inform the sector’s approach to student mental health.”
Rosie Tressler, CEO Student Minds:
“It’s been great to have the opportunity to collaborate with the UPP Foundation and Nottingham Trent University in developing this whole-community approach to supporting student mental health at NTU. Around a third of students may be experiencing levels of psychological distress, so equipping staff to create supportive communities and taking health promotion and peer support to where students actually live and socialise provides exciting opportunities for prevention and supporting students to manage this important transition.”
Student Minds welcomes commitment from university and privately owned accommodation providers to develop support for students in their care, whilst acknowledging that important work is being undertaken by other partners around accommodation affordability. We hope that our public report enables greater cross-sector collaboration and shared learning between university and accommodation sectors, and complements the upcoming strategic programme led by Universities UK to encourage universities to take a strategic, whole-university approach to supporting student and staff mental health.
The report is now available here.
where staff or students will also have the opportunity to share their views and ideas.
Student Minds has beaten more than 400 organisations from all over the UK to be one of the 10 winners of the 2017 GSK IMPACT Awards, a national award that recognises excellence in charities improving health and wellbeing in their communities. We will receive £30,000 in funding as part of its prize, as well as expert support and development from The King’s Fund.
The academic, financial and social pressures faced by students has led to growing concerns over the state of student mental health. An estimated three-quarters of lifetime mental illness begins by the time people are in their mid-twenties, making it particularly important that young people receive the care and support they need.
Katie Pinnock, Director of UK and Ireland Charitable Partnerships at GSK, said:
"Student Minds is a small charity having a big impact on the promotion of good mental health in universities.
Through its dynamic campaigns and support for volunteers, Student Minds has been really successful in raising awareness of mental health issues and equipping students with the tools they need to look after their own mental health. Student Minds is an outstanding charity that’s achieved a lot in a relatively short amount of time, making it a worthy winner of a GSK IMPACT Award."
Rosie Tressler, Chief Executive of Student Minds, said:
"While around a third of students may experience mental health difficulties at university, all members of the university community can benefit from building health literacy and coping skills to manage the ups and downs of life. Student Minds was founded to encourage students to talk about mental health and promote the idea that recovery is possible. Complementary to formal mental health services, other means of care such as peer support can be an opportunity for early intervention and can help individuals to sustain positive changes in their lives.
We’re thrilled to receive this GSK IMPACT Award, which recognises the importance of our work and the fantastic contribution made by our volunteers. The award will help us develop as an organisation and continue delivering support for students in the future."
Celebrating the award with us? Tweet using the hashtag #GSKIMPACTUK and tell us why you’re proud about our ongoing work to change the state of student mental health. You can find out more about Student Mind’s year in our Annual Report 2015/16