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
Today we are thrilled to announce the launch of an all-inclusive informational website, The Wellbeing Thesis, for postgraduate research students to support and maintain good mental wellbeing.
The student mental health conversation has, at times, focused little on the unique experiences and pressures that postgraduate research students face. Students describe the pressure to publish, the expectation to work long hours, and isolating working conditions as just some of the negative experiences they face as postgraduate researchers. The notion that stress and overwork are a necessary rite of passage for postgraduate research students can normalise poor mental health. A tailored intervention for PGR mental health could not be more timely.
The Wellbeing Thesis has been created in collaboration with the University of Derby and King’s College London. The website supports postgraduates across the whole student research journey to help improve their mental health. It takes a prevention and early intervention approach to support their mental wellbeing.
Postgraduate research students took a central role in content development of the website. As experts by experience, they joined co-creational panels to give us an understanding of their unique experiences and helped us to explore what content would be useful for other PGR students. In addition, we completed a rigorous literature review to further inform topics and research behind the content of the website.
The Wellbeing Thesis can help you to:
Postgraduate research students should not have to sacrifice their health to complete their research. With the right support and guidance, it is possible to navigate the ups and downs of your studies, maintain positive wellbeing and thrive during your research.
The website provides a national, open-access web-resource, hosted by Student Minds and it is funded by the Office for Students and Research England.
We are delighted to share the University Mental Health Charter with you, co-created with staff and students with one shared goal: to shape a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.
Together, over the past year thousands of students, staff and researchers from over 200 different universities, students’ unions and higher education organisations across the UK have co-created the Charter. It provides a set of principles of good practice that challenge universities to go beyond baseline requirements and mental health a university-wide priority.
Data shows that over 70% of universities do not currently have a strategy for mental health yet many report more than a 25% increase in demand for counselling services over the last five years (IPPR, 2017). Similarly, staff referrals for counselling have risen by 77% between 2009 and 2015 (HEPI, 2019).
The Charter encourages universities to provide consistently high-quality services and be proactive in promoting good mental health, ensuring the needs of all staff and students, including BAME, LGBTQ+, and widening participation population groups, are met. It will form the basis of the upcoming Charter Award Scheme, being developed in 2020, which will recognise and reward universities that promote good mental health and demonstrate good practice.
Its 18 themes cover a broad range of university activity that can have a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. These have been organised into five sections:
The Charter has been supported by grants from the UPP Foundation and Office for Students (OfS) and has been developed in partnership with key bodies within the sector, including the National Union of Students (NUS), The Universities UK (UUK) and AMOSSHE, in addition to the Department for Education (DfE). Find out more here.
“The University Mental Health Charter is the result of many dedicated individuals across the higher education sector coming together with the aim of transforming the lives of over 2.5 million staff and students across the UK. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the Charter is a key tool for universities to improve how they respond to mental health challenges and promote wellbeing across every aspect of university life. Co-creating the Charter with students, staff and higher education organisations has given me every confidence that, together, we can shape a future in which every member of the university community can thrive and that the higher education sector can be an example to others.” Rosie Tressler OBE, CEO, Student Minds
“The UPP Foundation has funded several projects which support student mental health but our £100k grant to Student Minds to develop and implement the University Mental Health Charter is our biggest single grant to date. We welcome today's publication of The University Mental Health Charter. This represents a major milestone in the development of the Charter Award Scheme, which will ultimately enhance mental health in higher education by rewarding best practice in our institutions. We now look forward to continuing our work with the brilliant coalition of organisations involved in the development of the Charter and call on all universities to sign up once the pilot phase has concluded.” Richard Brabner, Director, UPP Foundation
AMOSSHE welcomes the arrival of the Universities Mental Health Charter and is privileged to have worked with Student Minds and other sector bodies on this important endeavour. Jayne Aldridge, Chair of AMOSSHE said: “The introduction of this critical document signals an important step in supporting the wellbeing of everyone who studies or works within UK higher education.”
We look forward to people using the Charter together to make mental health a university-wide priority and shape a future in which the whole university community can thrive.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.