Last week, we were invited to open a ministerial roundtable on the subject of student accommodation. Through our work on our Student Living Report and the upcoming University Mental Health Charter, we have explored the connection between a student’s accommodation and their mental wellbeing. The meeting, held on October 28th, was a welcome intervention, bringing together a range of stakeholders including universities, student representatives and private accommodation providers.
We were pleased to find consensus in the room that student welfare needed to be at the heart of any decision surrounding student accommodation. We highlighted the importance of consistent referral pathways across university-owned and private properties, appropriate support for front line staff, and the value of strong, supportive student communities. We also noted how living in unaffordable accommodation places undue burden on students.
Jenny Smith, Policy Manager at Student Minds, said:
“The window at which the majority of mental health conditions present coincides with the window where most students begin their university journey. This is a period of significant transition. A student might be in a new city or country, often away from their established support networks. They might be struggling in their new academic environment, or finding that the university experience is not meeting their expectations. In this period it is crucial not to introduce further instability to their life, which is what happens when providers fail to complete buildings on time.”
We hope this meeting signals a shift in the sector dialogue regarding student accommodation and starts a move towards accommodation that is quality, safe, and affordable for every student.
Look out for our University Mental Health Charter, published December 9th, which will provide a set of principles outlining good practice in improving mental health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole university community.
Today we’re thrilled to share with our supporters that there are a number of new faces on the Student Minds’ trustee board. Our trustee board plays a vital role in enabling us to achieve the charity's objectives - providing accountability, oversight and robust governance to help us achieve our goals.
Student Minds’ board is made up of a mixture of experts from across the charity, higher education, business and health care sectors. With a diverse range of experiences, our board of ten have expertise and knowledge in HR, law, finance, fundraising, mental health, education and beyond.
About the new appointments to the board, Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds commented:
“As we continue to grow and move towards our 10th year of operating, we recognised that now is the ideal time for us to expand and bring in new skills and expertise. We are delighted that the board have appointed five new trustees with a range of skills and experiences and a strong commitment to our aims. Our Chair, Dr Nicola Byrom and I would like to extend a warm welcome to Brian Rock, Jaki Booth, Natasha Devon, Sue Rigby and Victoria Goddard. Together with our existing trustee board members they will help us think long term and strategically about how we best continue our efforts transform the state of student mental health.”
We’d also like to take the opportunity to thank Seb Baird for his wide ranging contributions to Student Minds as his term on the board comes to an end. Seb has brought his passion for mental health to Student Minds in his roles first as a graduate advisor on projects and as a board member where he has helped shape our approaches to digital literacy and storytelling. We wish Seb all the best in his next adventures.
To find out more about the members of our trustee board visit: www.studentminds.org.uk/trustees
Also, meet the latest additions to our staff team, including our new Peer Support Manager and Policy Manager here and our Clinical Advisory Group and Student Advisory Committee.
We are delighted to share that Student Minds’ CEO, Rosie Tressler, has been awarded with an OBE in Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday 2019 Honours List, in recognition of her services to mental health in Higher Education.
Rosie has been working on the issue of student mental health for several years, including various roles at Student Minds supporting volunteering, campaigning and training development before becoming the charity's Chief Executive Officer in 2015. Rosie is involved with multiple programmes to transform the health of student and university communities, and currently oversees the development of the University Mental Health Charter, a national quality improvement and reward scheme which is being co-produced with students and the university community.
Following the news of this recognition, Rosie would like to share her gratitude to all involved with Student Minds:
“As a passionate mental health campaigner, I am overwhelmed and incredibly grateful to have received this honour which is a real testament to the movement building to create healthy university communities. Social change is created by many people working collaboratively and creatively together, and I am lucky to work with the very best people, who all deserve recognition.
Thank you to our dedicated and hardworking staff team, our hundreds of inspirational volunteers and university staff partners, our thoughtful trustees, clinical and student advisors, our generous funders, and our committed partner organisations in the UK and internationally.
Thank you to the thousands of students, academics, mental health practitioners and university professionals - that have shared their stories with us, campaigned for change and supported research and development projects to help the next generation.
On a personal level I’d also like to thank my family, friends and partner for supporting me and looking out for my mental health and wellbeing.
And finally, thank you to our Chair and Founder, Dr. Nicola Byrom, for sharing your story so courageously a decade ago and for showing you can make transformational change at any age, so that I and many others could do the same.
I’m proud of what all of us are achieving together and will keep doing my best to deliver on the honour of receiving an OBE, so that every student and staff member that requires support for mental illness receives timely, effective treatment and so that the whole community can thrive. Universities and charities are special places that change society for the better, and now more than ever we need to work together to create an inclusive, safe and supportive world."
Momentous news! Several innovative university mental health projects worth over £14.5 million announced today
Today university mental health received a £14.5 million boost, as the successful projects in the Office for Students’ recent funding call ‘Supporting a step change in student mental health’, were announced. The funding will support 10 ambitious collaborations across the UK, and Student Minds’ are directly involved with three of the innovative mental health partnership projects.
About the news, Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds commented;
“This really is a momentous day for the health and wellbeing of all who will study and work in Higher Education. Millions of people’s lives will be positively impacted by the collaborations that the OFS funding and match investment from universities has enabled. Whether a student or employee is experiencing mental illness and needs rapid access to quality services, has a temporary problem requiring different types of support or they just aren’t yet thriving or finding their purpose, these projects will mean improvements for students and university communities across this spectrum of experiences.
There will be innovative projects taking place across several key areas where there is a need for increased understanding and new practice. We’re really pleased that this is all with a key principle of co-production built in, a recognition that we must develop innovative approaches with communities and not just ‘for’ them. This funding news will not only impact those directly involved, but the learning across these collaborations will feed into wider national initiatives supporting continued improvement, such as the development of Student Minds’ University Mental Health Charter.
At Student Minds we’re delighted to be directly involved in three of these transformational collaborations. Through these grants, we’ll be driving innovation with multiple universities, students’ unions and connected organisations in three key areas; curriculum and pedagogy, international students’ health, and city-wide health partnerships with the NHS.
Of course, there is a lot more to do across our education and health sectors beyond the projects announced today. Beyond the 10 successful partnerships, there were another 38 bids that go unfunded, showing that there is a lot of vision and potential for further work to address other gaps across the UK. I hope that today’s news encourages more funders and supporters to step up and invest in the health and futures of our university communities and millions of young people - the people who are, and in future will be - at the forefront of solving society's biggest challenges.”
Student Minds are delighted to be directly involved in the development of the three following partnership projects;
To find out about the other projects funded today visit here.
Over the coming months Student Minds will be working with our partners behind the scenes in order to get the project teams and groundwork in place for these projects. You can stay up to date with this work and any job opportunities as this progresses by signing up to our newsletter. To contact Student Minds email: email@example.com.
By Rachel Piper
Student Minds’ Policy Manager responds to some of the arguments set out in HEPI’s recent paper contributing some of our understanding from what we have learnt from the sector, on the issue and implications of measuring student mental health and wellbeing.
HEPI’s Policy Note ‘Measuring well-being in higher education’ makes a case for increasing the consistency and coverage of measuring mental well-being in HE. It argues that we must clearly distinguish between ‘mental health’ and ‘mental wellbeing’ in order to both understand and respond to concerns in HEIs. The paper states that the conflation of the two terms has led to an “inaccurate funding” of student support services, specifically focusing on a reduction of counselling services. It concludes that further measurement into wellbeing will help us better understand the wellbeing of our university communities, and subsequently address gaps in provision.
At Student Minds we welcome discussion about effective approaches to create healthy university communities. Whilst we appreciate the value of measuring wellbeing focussed on here, we would like to acknowledge areas raised in this article which may benefit from deeper study and caution - through looking to wider developments such as the role of The Student Mental Health Research Network (SMARTEN), which is looking into the complexities of measuring student’s mental health and wellbeing.
In this opinion piece, I focus on 4 key areas:
Why might we say ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing’? - Understanding the use of models
The HEPI paper recommends that “We should be consistent in our terminology and clearly distinguish between mental health and personal well-being.” and argues that the conflation of mental health and well-being is not helpful for tackling either low levels of well-being or supporting those suffering mental ill-health.
Why does advocating for counselling alone miss the bigger picture? - The necessity for a whole university approach & wide range of provision
The HEPI paper near exclusively focuses on the role of counselling, and expresses a concern that counselling services are reducing in capacity due to the conflation of terminology and a lack of data.
Why do we need to exercise caution in using mental well being measures as a metric? - The power of encouraging excellent practice
The HEPI paper suggests that the collection of wellbeing data will enable universities to compare one another, potentially through both metrics and regulatory frameworks. Whilst we would support the need for collection of data on a national level through surveying the student and staff body, in order to understand what the sector needs, we would advise caution about using mental wellbeing data as a metric, or a proxy for measuring the standard of a university:
How can a university understand the mental wellbeing of its community? - The tools at our disposal
Whilst there is value in collecting national data to support the sector to improve, we would extend this conversation to encouraging universities to collect data that supports them to make the best strategic decisions for their specific expression of need.
We hope to further respond to a number of areas in further depth, such as commenting the role of the NHS and third sector organisations in collecting and responding to wellbeing data. We hope to see these discussions continue - and we will share the results of SMARTEN’s rich discussions and findings in this area, as they come to light.
Students’ Unions are key to transforming the state of student mental health, launch of a ground-breaking support programme for SUs
We are delighted to announce that we are going to be partnering with a number of Students’ Unions next academic year to create and launch a support programme that seeks to define and develop the role that SUs can play in transforming the state of student mental health on campuses across the UK. The SUs partnering with Student Minds will be the early adopters in this space looking to innovate as well as create and test different approaches in improving student experience.
Rosie Tressler, our CEO, shared, “Students’ unions are natural allies for Student Minds, and having worked with a range of SU staff and officers over the years I am very excited that we will be working together strategically and for greater impact. SUs play a vital role on campus as service providers, employers, managers of volunteers, innovators in peer support as well as representatives and advocates for the student voice. By collaborating on this innovative programme we are recognising this and the invaluable role Students’ Unions have in ensuring students in HE can flourish.”
The three-year programme will seek to develop three key areas of work:
We will also aim for this process to be informed by and support the development of the University Mental Health Charter that we are leading on developing.
Student Minds’ funders, partners and early adopters in the programme will be:
We are happy to say that University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) led the way as the first SU to sign up to support the programme. YUSU CEO, Ben Vulliamy and YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer, Steph Hayle commented:
“We are of the view that students’ unions are uniquely positioned to influence the mental health and wellbeing of students, but to realise this potential we need facilitation, support and expertise. It is for that reason that we have been talking with Student Minds over the last 6 months, exploring how they could support and advise us on developing student mental health related strategy and policies, embedding student mental health across union strategy and day to day culture. This is why we are happy to be funders and partners in this innovative programme.”
Do you want to join the SUs that are leading the way? If so contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our goal is to create a University Mental Health Charter that is shaped by the experience and expertise of our university communities. That’s why we spent the whole of March listening to students, students’ unions, staff and senior leaders across the UK as part of the University Mental Health Charter Road Trip and online survey.
Last month we visited 6 university campuses in 4 countries; starting at Staffordshire University, before travelling to University of Strathclyde, Leeds University Union, University of the Arts London, Ulster University and Cardiff University SU. The events brought together 360 staff and students from 181 diverse universities, student unions and organisations.
An incredible 2274 of you participated in our online survey, sharing your thoughts and ideas around how to create mentally healthy university communities. It has been truly inspiring to learn from so many staff and students who are doing amazing work at their institutions and are full of ambition to build a better future for university mental health.
Through our road trip workshops, focus groups and online survey, staff and students have shared their expert insights on a range of themes including promoting good mental health, learning and teaching, support services, and staff wellbeing. On the road trip, students and students’ unions also participated in co-creation workshops where they designed the mentally healthy universities of the future. Together, we have explored possibilities for the Charter’s major themes, its structure and assessment metrics.
The keynotes who joined us on the road trip- Natasha Devon MBE, Prof. Mark Dooris & Prof. Sue Powell, Dr Sandeep Ranote, Jill Stevenson, Dr Dominique Thompson, and Rosie Tressler - inspired each of us to continue to create cultural change in our universities.
Our team of experienced researchers will now analyse all the feedback and evidence we collected on the road trip and through the survey. Together with our partners UUK, we will work with panels of sector experts to review what you have told us and begin to shape the Charter. We will publish headline findings from the consultation later in 2019, before testing and piloting the final scheme to be launched in 2020.
Thank you to all those who participated in the Charter consultation, both in person and online. It has been amazing to see the university community coming together to create positive change. Together, we're building a Charter which is truly ambitious and will challenge universities across the UK to make student and staff mental health a university-wide priority.
At Student Minds we recognise the need for further research to understand the root causes of the tragedy of student deaths by suicide. The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) recently announced a Case Review investigating this further. Student Minds welcome UWE’s open response and hope this transparent and progressive approach can lead the way in building a national evidence base in the future.
We believe it is important for everyone in the Higher Education sector to increase collaborative working and share learning to prevent student deaths by suicide as well as inform the support that is provided for students.
UWE Bristol’s case review, supported by Public Health England (PHE), investigated 14 identified probable deaths by suicide (confirmed, suspected or likely) among UWE students between January 2010 and July 2018. This figure was later revised to 12 probable deaths by suicide during the period examined, from over 200,000 students enrolled at UWE Bristol over that period. The case review has helped UWE Bristol to identify common factors, characteristics and areas to consider in their suicide prevention plan.
UWE Bristol’s key findings:
As there is a small sample size it is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from these findings. We now need the support of the sector and more research, with universities coming together to share their experiences of student deaths by suicide. We encourage all Higher Education institutions to build upon and utilise the methodology of this research. UWE’s work provides an example of a model that can be used by other universities, colleges and schools across the UK. For this work to be successful we also suggest that we work in partnership locally to build our understanding, with universities joining up with the NHS. This will help to build a national evidence base to prevent the loss of students to suicide.
You can find more guidance recently produced by Universities UK for universities on this topic in the ‘Suicide Safer Universities’ guide. The University of Worcester has also shared their experiences developing an approach for the What Works Centre.
We support UWE Bristol’s commitment to student mental health and wellbeing, we look forward to seeing how they build on this research and continue to build on the work we know they have undertaken so far to co-produce interventions with students and seeing the development of their new suicide prevention plan.
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).
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:
In June, the Universities Minister Sam Gyimah announced that we would be developing a University Mental Health Charter.
Since then Student Minds have been hard at work behind the scenes, consulting with colleagues and experts, appointing the charter team and developing our methodology. We have now appointed a project manager and content development lead and are starting to shape our plans for developing this exciting piece of work.
Developing a fresh approach
In 2017, UUK’s Step Change Framework called for universities to think beyond the provision of services, towards a whole university approach to mental health. The charter will embody this approach and we are working with UUK to ensure it is aligned with the refreshed Step Change Framework, due to be launched in September 2019.
The charter will be designed to help universities develop genuinely holistic approaches and to recognise those that are already delivering excellent work.
Our intention is to make the charter ambitious and stretching. We want to ask the sector what the ideal approach to student mental health would that look like and how would we know? We want the charter to have a long-term and transformative effect on the mental health of all of university communities.
To deliver this, we hope that the final charter will cover a broad range of dimensions, accounting for every aspect of university life that can have a significant impact on mental health. We hope that in ten years, the majority of universities will have gained or will be working towards charter status and that this will represent another step change in improving mental wellbeing within our universities.
We wrote for WonkHE sharing our next steps for the University Mental Health Charter, including our key principles, research methodology and how you can get involved, you can find out more here. We look forward to sharing more updates in the new year!
New funding from the Office for Students for universities to innovate and collaborate to improve student mental health outcomes
Today the Office for Students (OfS) has announced the “OfS Challenge Competition: Achieving a step change in mental health outcomes for all students”. The Office for Students, through this new competition, is inviting higher education providers to deliver new and innovative collaborative approaches to improving mental health outcomes for students.
We are delighted to see that the OfS is championing the importance of student mental health, through supporting universities to work in partnership with other Higher Education Institutions and other organisations including education providers such as schools and colleges, health agencies, third sector organisations, and other stakeholders to innovate in this area.
With around £6m of funding, the competition aims to generate new approaches which can be used across higher education. Proposals could support:
Higher Education providers are invited to express their interest by the 7th of November 2018.
You can read more about the OfS Challenge Competition on their website.
If you want to know more about our work at Student Minds across these objectives contact email@example.com