Student Minds joins coalition of mental health charities asking Prime Minister to support Mental Health Renewal Plan
Student Minds are part of a major coalition of mental health charities seeking an urgent Mental Health Renewal Plan for England in response to Covid-19. Together the coalition is asking for a “New Social Contract” between the government, mental health charities, and other supporters to deliver crucial support in response to the pandemic.
We have added our name to a list of over fifty co-signatories who bring a wealth of expertise from across the mental health sector. The letter, which has been submitted to the Prime Minister, champions the importance of listening to those with lived experience. Together we argue that we are presented with a rare opportunity to improve and protect the mental health of every person in our society, in spite of the difficulties posed by the pandemic. At Student Minds, collaboration is one of our core values, and we believe the New Social Contract will enable mental health charities, voluntary organisations, and the government, to meaningfully work together.
Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said:
“Mental health care has been chronically underfunded for decades and we were only just starting to see the impact of investment when the pandemic hit.
“Covid-19 has changed the course of the journey we are on and we need to pool all our knowledge and resources to navigate the challenges ahead, with support at every level of government. There's an opportunity here to provide the nation with a renewal plan for mental health and to reduce some of the most damaging health inequalities in society. If we do not seize this chance, we will feel the impact of that failing for decades.”
Reflecting on the significance of this for students, Rosie Tressler OBE, Chief Executive Officer of Student Minds, said:
“As the UK’s student mental health charity, we understand the importance of teaming up with a broad coalition of partners dedicated to improving mental health across the country. Different groups in our society are exposed to the mental, emotional and economic difficulties posed by the pandemic, which could be felt for years to come. These difficulties could have a long-lasting impact if they are not properly addressed. We believe it is a question of intergenerational, societal fairness that we join calls for a Mental Health Renewal Plan for the nation, which also includes and addresses the specific needs of students.
“We are vehemently in support of the letter’s call for health inequalities, which are being exacerbated and deepening in the wake of the pandemic, to be front and centre in a renewal plan and will continue to advocate for the needs and experiences of our diverse student population.”
Read more about the New Social Contract and read the open letter to the Prime Minister.
Student Minds to lead development of £3m collaborative mental health programme to support students through pandemic
We are delighted to announce that up to £3m in funding has been awarded by the Office for Students (OfS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) for the development of targeted mental health support for students during the Covid-19 pandemic; Student Space.
Student Space will act as a single point of access to support for university and college students. The platform will consist of both immediate and preventative interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes. It will offer a range of clinically developed psychoeducational resources, curate and quality-assure other types of available support such as online guidance, peer support and volunteering opportunities, and provide accessible therapeutic interventions. We will collate existing services provided by universities to ensure students are equipped to access a full range of support.
Student Minds will lead the development of Student Space, working with a range of partners, sector bodies and service providers to deliver a collaborative, clinically-approved support platform which brings together excellent work from across the sector. The programme is designed to help address the additional mental health challenges arising from the pandemic.
The first phase of the programme will be launched in late July for all 2.3 million students at registered Welsh institutions and OfS-registered Higher Education providers in England.
Rosie Tressler OBE, Chief Executive Officer of Student Minds, said:
“Over the last few months, we’ve been listening to students, our university communities and partner organisations to learn how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting their lives, from the transition to online learning, to being away from their networks of support and concerns about the future. Students and staff alike have shown great adaptability amidst the uncertainty, but we also know that the pandemic is exacerbating existing challenges for student mental health in addition to creating new ones. There is a clear need for additional mental health and wellbeing support, to complement existing activity in the Higher Education sector and NHS, to ensure that students are supported and empowered through these unique circumstances.
We know that the pandemic is not affecting every student in the same way, research has found that it is deepening long-standing health inequalities. This highlights the clear need for targeted accessible support which meets students’ broad variety of needs.
We welcome the news of dedicated funding to develop support for students and look forward to working with a broad range of organisations to provide this much-needed programme. We hope this will become one of many initiatives to support the mental health and wellbeing of our society.”
While Student Minds will oversee the development of Student Space, we will be commissioning a number of organisations in the development of bespoke content and services. To deliver this we will collaborate with a programme advisory group involving student, clinical and professional input. We will use all of our previous and current listening work with students to make sure the programme genuinely reflects the needs of our student communities.
We will implement a student-informed evaluation framework and continue to share what we are learning about student experiences through Student Space to help inform local approaches in universities, Students’ Unions and the wider HE sector, during the Covid-19 recovery period.
You can find out more information about Student Space as we develop our FAQs in the coming weeks. If you have any further questions please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are looking for existing information on supporting students and your university community, explore our Coronvavirus Resource Hub and guidance for universities.
Student Minds are delighted to announce that Glasgow Caledonian University and Hartpury University have been chosen to pilot our University Mental Health Charter Award Scheme. The two universities will join the University of Derby, who have partnered with us as the first pilot university.
These universities have been selected for their impressive commitment to working towards a whole-university approach to mental health and clear plans for ensuring participation in the pilot will benefit their university communities. It was also important to select universities that represent a diverse range of institution types from across the UK, so the learning we gain from the pilot will be of maximum value to the wider sector.
In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, universities have been working hard to prioritise the safety of staff and students and ensure education, work and community life can continue. Once immediate responses are in place, it will be important for universities to understand how they can be proactive in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their staff and students in a very new context. The Charter Award Scheme will support universities to make mental health and wellbeing a university-wide priority and recognise excellent practice, while appreciating the challenging local and global circumstances in which they are a part.
During our pilots, we will work with the three selected universities to test our approach to understanding universities’ progress against the University Mental Health Charter and explore how our methods can best support ongoing improvement and celebrate achievement. We are working with the pilot universities to adapt our approach and timeframe in response to the uncertain situation surrounding Covid19.
The development and pilot of the University Mental Health Charter is supported by start-up funding of £100k from the UPP Foundation and £145k from the Office for Students, in partnership with leading higher education organisations. We are grateful to the University of Derby, Glasgow Caledonian University and Hartpury University and for volunteering to help us create an Award Scheme that will shape a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.
Rosie Tressler OBE, CEO of Student Minds said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with three universities that have shown clear motivation and commitment to making mental health a university-wide priority and look forward to working with them to shape the Charter Award Scheme. Currently, universities are working hard to respond to the immediate needs of staff and students in light of the Covid-19 pandemic but as the situation develops, it is vital that the wellbeing of our university communities is a top priority. The Charter Award Scheme aims to give universities the space they need to reflect and grow, as well as celebrate where they have overcome challenges and helped their communities to thrive.”
Professor Kathryn Mitchell DL, Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby said: “We are delighted to be supporting the implementation of the University Mental Health Charter and to be the first university to pilot the scheme. The mental health of our university communities has never been more important. The Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated just how important it is to have a whole university approach to supporting students and staff embedded through everything that we do. Participating in the pilot has already produced new learning and activity and we are keen to learn more from the next phase. At Derby, we are proud of our reputation for providing excellent support to our students and staff and for the work we do with the sector, to improve the mental health of all of our communities. Supporting the development and implementation of the Charter is a key part of this, and we look forward to applying to the full scheme when it opens.”
Principal Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University said: “Our University is delighted and honoured that our pioneering and holistic approach to caring for the health and wellbeing of our students and staff has been recognised by Student Minds. We look forward to sharing some of our own best practice and learning from Student Minds and some of the other best universities across the UK as we work together to help create a supportive future for all students."
Lesley Worsfold, Vice-Principal Resources at Hartpury University, said: “We’re honoured to have been chosen by Student Minds to pilot its University Mental Health Charter Award Scheme. Our Mental Health Strategy aims to create an informed community that recognises good mental health alongside good physical health and wellbeing, as an important requirement for successful learning and a positive student experience. Mental health, wellbeing and resilience are embedded within our strategic priorities, to facilitate a whole-institution approach that is supported by passionate senior leaders. The Mental Health and Resilience Steering Group constantly drives innovative ways of ensuring that all staff and students are engaged with this agenda. A member of the senior management team chairs this group, with a membership consisting of a wide range of staff, including college, university, professional services and our Students’ Union ensuring a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing.”
On Monday, the government announced its long-awaited package of measures to see the higher education sector through the Covid-19 pandemic. Student Minds are pleased to see that the government is taking action, but note that the concerns and input of the sector must be incorporated into any policy interventions designed to support the sector.
At Student Minds, we are hopeful that the government will provide further support for the over 2.5 million higher education students and staff who are key to the national response to the pandemic, but are also highly exposed to its impact. The pandemic has brought great uncertainty and precarity, which has the potential to greatly impact the wellbeing of our university communities and the long-term sustainability of the sector. In addition to this, the ongoing challenges to staff and student mental health continue and may intensify.
Universities are critical in our response to Covid-19. They are centres of research and innovation, they train and support frontline workers across a variety of sectors, and are anchor institutions in their local economies. Damage to our university communities will be felt across the country, and now more than ever their contribution to society is evident.
Student Minds CEO, Rosie Tressler OBE, said: “Students and staff from across the higher education sector have blown us away with their commitment, hard work and bravery at the frontlines of this pandemic. However, we recognise the immense pressure that they are under right now.
“If we do not act, we could see the ripples of this pandemic for years to come in the mental health of our students, graduates, and staff. That’s why we continue to add our voice to a network of organisations asking the government to provide dedicated and additional help to support the wellbeing of university students across the country”.
Collaboration is key now more than ever and we will continue to work in partnership with government departments and stakeholders across the sector. Student Minds will strive for effective support which protects and improves the mental health of everyone in higher education.
Today is #GivingTuesdayNow - an opportunity to celebrate the outpouring of compassion that people worldwide have shown to those near and far during this disconcerting time, which has affected every one of us in some way. According to Kathy Calvin, former CEO of the UN Foundation, ‘Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.’
On this day, we’d like to say thank you to all of you who have made a difference by supporting Student Minds. Thank you to those of you who have pushed yourselves by taking on an inventive fundraising challenge, from doing 26 continuous forward rolls to completing 260 push-ups. Thank you to those of you who have made a donation and accompanied it with a kind and motivating message. Thank you to those of you who have shared our fundraising appeals, and championed our work.
Thank you to each and every one of you for giving us inspiration and hope.
For many students, the past couple of months have been tough. We’ve heard from students who are feeling isolated. International students who have lost their sense of belonging. Students that have lost jobs that were a vital source of income. Students who have lost their networks of support. Students who no longer have a safe space to study. Students whose loved ones have become seriously ill. Health and social care students who have been propelled onto the frontline with little time to prepare. Students who have been denied the opportunity to say goodbye to their communities and celebrate their achievements as they move on to the next phase of their lives. Students who still don’t know what the future of their university experience will hold.
By trusting Student Minds to use your donations wisely, you’ve enabled us to keep our work going and make sure the mental wellbeing of the 2.4 million students and 440,000 higher education staff across the UK does not get forgotten. We do not take this responsibility lightly. We’ve been listening to students' needs, creating online resources, and supporting institutions as they respond to this ever-changing situation. We’ve also been supporting students to share their experiences on the Student Minds Blog.
We couldn’t have done it without you.
And though times may be hard, with your ongoing support we will continue to be there for students and staff through whatever the months ahead may bring.
Much has been said about the wide-ranging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. What is happening, and what has already happened, will reshape our way of life for the foreseeable future. Students have been at the frontlines of this pandemic, stepping up to join the NHS before their time, leading community mutual aid initiatives, and campaigning for justice and equality as we respond to what’s happening around us.
Now, more than ever, student mental health must be supported, as should the mental health of all those in our university communities. However, resorting to previous ways of working, relying on knowledge of life pre-Covid, would limit the efficacy of our response. So, as a charity, we’ve transitioned to a new way of working to enable us to support you - students, sector staff, and our supporters - best, and adapt to our new reality together.
What is Student Minds doing to respond to Covid-19?
In order to support the university community best, we first want to develop a rich understanding of the unique challenges students and staff are facing. We are ready, formulating and implementing our new listening strategy to put your experiences at the forefront of our response. We have been preparing pulse surveys, analysing social media content, conducting thematic analysis, and setting up our own “horizon-scanning” functions to future-proof our work.
We are continuously developing our understanding of the experiences of students and staff alike and want to co-produce our interventions to ensure they are fit for purpose. This means working with students and staff at every stage of our content creation process. We want to develop resources, support and analysis which truly and accurately reflect the needs of everybody in our university communities.
As we shift gears to enact our new operational plan, we can focus our full attention on Covid-19, improving and protecting student mental health to the best of our ability. We have created a resource and already contributed to many productive conversations with government departments and key partners across the sector. We are keen to see this work continue in a collaborative effort to protect and support student mental health.
We want to pay tribute to the students and staff showing incredible resourcefulness and resilience in these difficult times. Support staff and other HE professionals across the UK have been working incredibly hard to ensure the negative impacts of the pandemic on student mental health are minimal.
We have been inspired by the numerous students who have commenced work for the NHS early to help out during the pandemic. We will continue to work to understand their specific experiences and to champion their mental health and wellbeing, not only now, but into the future.
Many Students’ Unions have been quick to innovate and adapt, establishing online communities, organising social opportunities, and creating student-led support content, to respond to the needs of their communities. We also want to acknowledge the numerous student campaigners and activists across the country who have organically contributed to wider community initiatives and mutual aid groups.
How you can get involved?
You can support our listening work to improve our understanding of how the pandemic is impacting you. We are running short surveys for students and sector staff to learn about how you are experiencing the pandemic, understanding what’s helping, what isn’t, and what needs to be done in the short, medium, and long-term. Our Clinical Advisory Group has provided input into this process to ensure this work is rigorous and fit-for-purpose. Share your experiences today!
If you are a researcher who is investigating the impact of Covid-19 on higher education, university students, or university mental health, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. At Student Minds we want to ensure our work is built on a strong foundation of evidence, so we would love to hear about what you’re doing and talk about ways in which we may be able to work together. Our research partners SMaRteN are also conducting their own vital research into the impacts of Covid-19.
Finally, as a small charity, we like many others have been financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are able and willing to give, even the smallest donation helps us to keep doing our vital work. There’s plenty of ways you can fundraise for Student Minds too; check out our digital fundraising for inspiration.
Tackling inequality in the era of Covid-19
We understand we are living through difficult times, and that this pandemic is not impacting each person equally. Throughout our work, we will endeavour to capture and understand the different experiences of students and staff from a wide range of backgrounds. Our commitment to addressing health inequalities remains at the heart of what we do. Your voice matters, and through supporting our work, you’re helping us to support those who need us most.
We can do this together
At Student Minds, we believe it is important to hold onto optimism and hope. While we are experiencing a paradigm shift, restructuring our society and the higher education sector, we have tremendous power which is best harnessed when we work together.
We will continue to support good mental health for everybody in the higher education community, with co-production, equality and courage at our core.
We hope you stay safe, take care, and be kind to yourself, as we work on this together.
Student Minds welcomes Universities Minister outlining university mental health as a personal priority
Last week Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities, set out that university mental health would be a personal priority and that she would ensure mental health remains at the top of the government's agenda.
The Minister reaffirmed the government's commitment to mental health in education at the pre-launch event for Universities UK’s Mentally Healthy Universities Framework, the refresh of the StepChange framework, due to be published soon.
Student Minds attended the event in parliament alongside a number of Vice-Chancellors, MPs and representatives from key organisations such as the Office for Students, AMOSSHE, NUS, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing and Public Health England.
Our CEO, Rosie Tressler OBE, gave a speech at the event, emphasising the need to co-produce approaches to improving mental health and wellbeing with staff and students and the importance of ensuring those who are most affected by mental health issues are supported equally. She urged VCs, MPs and other attendees to ensure that commitment to mental health leads to action and change.
The Mentally Healthy Universities Framework has been co-developed alongside Student Minds’ University Mental Health Charter and will encourage universities to work across the four domains set out by the Charter - Learn, Support, Live and Work in order to achieve a whole university approach to mental health. Together we hope to shape a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.
We are encouraged by the commitment to university mental health shown by the Minister and Universities UK and hope this helps to support work to transform the state of university mental health across the sector.
The mental health of university students and staff has been a focus of increasing concern in the UK. Evidence has found an increase in demand for services to support student mental health, with reports suggesting that some universities are seeing a doubling in the number of students accessing support.
At Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisors Network, we believe it does not need to be this way. Student and staff mental health has to improve. We need to come together to create long-lasting necessary change as a whole university community.
This is why universities, health care providers, organisations and students across the UK are coming together for University Mental Health Day on Thursday 5th March to make mental health a university-wide priority. December 2019 saw our launch of the University Mental Health Charter, which provides a framework of best practice to support universities across the UK to shape a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.
However, our work does not stop there. Everybody has a role to play on University Mental Health Day, and all year round, to create the change we need to see.
Championing a whole university approach to mental health
There are a variety of factors that can affect one’s mental health, which is why it is important that we face this challenge with a whole university approach. We aspire to create university communities which provide not only well-resourced support services and interventions but an environment and culture where staff and students can thrive.
Listening to the needs of our university communities
We believe that students and staff are experts by experience. They’re the ones on the ground living the day-to-day reality of the culture, structures and policies all of which can influence their mental health and wellbeing. That’s why we champion co-production in everything we do. Our Leaders Movement puts students in the driving seat of creating change, while The Wellbeing Thesis was co-created with postgraduate researchers, and the University Mental Health Charter was created with staff and students alike. Today we are encouraging everyone to listen meaningfully to the needs of your communities in order to make change last.
Rosie Tressler OBE, CEO of Student Minds, said: “At Student Minds, we look forward to working with students and staff to make mental health a university-wide priority. It is great to see the positive work that is happening to improve mental health at universities across the country. We look forward to institutions using the University Mental Health Charter and working with students to help their communities thrive today and all year round.”
Anna Matthews, Chair, Dan Doran, Trustee, and Sam Gamblin, Charity Manager of UMHAN share: “UMHAN welcomes the numerous and varied activities being delivered to mark the 12th Uni Mental Health Day. The day was originally created to destigmatise mental health on campus and promote best practice and collaboration in an effort to properly and holistically address this pressing need amongst students in Higher Education."
This University Mental Health Day and all year round we will work together to shape a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive!
Student Minds were pleased to be invited to attend a roundtable event this week hosted by special advisers to the Prime Minister, with our CEO, Rosie Tressler OBE, attending on our behalf. We joined representatives from a range of organisations including charities, the NHS, government departments, and other key stakeholders.
The discussions were encouraging and wide-ranging, covering a variety of challenges and opportunities related to young people’s mental health. In relation to university students, we highlighted the need for a whole university approach and the value of co-production in responding to and improving poor mental health. Particularly, we drew on our experiences developing the University Mental Health Charter with our strategic partners and the importance of bringing students and the university community together to shape it. We benefited from the opportunity to hear experiences and ideas from other partners in the sector.
We hope to have further opportunities to share best practice and work in a joined-up, collaborative manner to improve the mental health of students and young people.
In December, we published the University Mental Health Charter, outlining how universities can make mental health a university-wide priority. The Charter was just the start of what will be a significant change-programme. Today, we are delighted to share our plans for developing the Charter Award Scheme in partnership with students, thanks to additional funding from the Office for Students.
The Charter Award Scheme is a voluntary programme which will recognise and reward universities that promote good mental health and demonstrate good practice. Throughout 2020, we will pilot the process at Derby University and three additional universities before opening the scheme for applications in Winter 2020.
Thank you to the Office for Students, whose generous grant of £95,000* has allowed us to carry out our next steps in developing the Charter Award Scheme. Their funding will allow us to scale-up the pilot, develop a rigorous impact evaluation process, create a digital platform and importantly continue having student experiences at the heart of the Charter Award Scheme. These developments will help to ensure the Charter leads to real cultural change across the sector.
We encourage every university leader to spend time reflecting on the recommendations in the Charter and have conversations with their staff and students on how they can keep moving forward to achieving a whole-university approach to mental health and wellbeing.
Rosie Tressler OBE (CEO) shared:
“The Charter has received an incredible response from the sector as a key tool for helping universities to promote a whole-university approach to mental health. This is just the start. Embedding the Charter’s principles will require time and commitment from university communities. This is why we are delighted to have the support from the Office for Students and our partners to further develop the Charter Award Scheme, to support universities to create real cultural change. We encourage universities no matter what stage they are in their mental health journey to start conversations about how they can use the Charter and keep moving towards a future in which the whole university community can thrive.”
Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation (OfS), said:
“Having a mental health condition should not be a barrier to success in higher education. Many universities and colleges have been working hard to improve their support services for mental health and wellbeing, but there is still much more we can do. Through our funding for Student Minds and the Charter Award Scheme we aim to help provide a powerful incentive for universities to improve the support they offer students, involve students in developing effective solutions, and ensure that good practice is recognised and shared across the sector for the benefit of all.”
Chris Skidmore, Universities Minister, said:
“It is vital that students have the mental health support they need to thrive in higher education – our universities are world-leading in so many areas and I want them to be the best for mental health support too. The Government-backed charter, led by Student Minds, will play an important role in promoting good mental health across the sector by encouraging universities to rise to the challenge. I look forward to seeing positive results from the pilots and the work of the student panel.”
*Funding from the OfS for the Charter Award Scheme complements the start-up funding we have received from the UPP Foundation and previous funding from the OfS. We are also grateful for the in-kind support from our Steering Group partners; Universities UK, Department for Education, the Office for Students, AMOSSHE, NUS and SMaRteN