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: