Charities call on universities to make mental health a university-wide priority as restrictions lift
This University Mental Health Day (Thursday 3rd March) organisers are calling on the higher education and health sectors to make mental health for staff and students a year-round priority.
Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, in collaboration with the University Mental Health Advisors Network, are urging universities to address the ongoing mental health impacts of the pandemic on students and staff as final restrictions are lifted, and to provide increased support as students transition back into campus life.
Research carried out by Student Minds in January found that 52% of students have felt lonely or isolated during the recent Autumn term, yet 47% of respondents with experience of mental health issues said they had no intention of disclosing this to their university. Additionally, 43% of respondents said they need support to manage their wellbeing, and fewer than 50% felt equipped to manage the pressures of university life.
Rosie Tressler, CEO, Student Minds said: “It’s concerning that so many students are struggling to manage the challenges of university life yet, for whatever reason, they feel unable to reach out to their university for support. This needs to change.
“While we know numerous factors cause students to feel hesitant when discussing their mental health, communicating what resources and support services are available and reminding students that they are not alone in feeling this way is paramount.
“University Mental Health Day provides us with an opportunity to bring these issues to the fore, on the understanding that we should all continue to work together to make student mental health a priority, ensuring that support services are appropriately resourced and communicated effectively throughout the academic year.
“However, it’s not just responsive support services that we need, indeed the very culture of university life should be considered and reflected upon, to ensure that students are learning as part of a supportive community in which they can thrive.”
Funding for Student Space, an online support platform created and managed by Student Minds and designed to complement university wellbeing services, has also been extended thanks to the Office For Students and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales until the end of this academic year. This will ensure students can rely on consistent support provisions following the lifting of the remaining Covid restrictions. Student Space has to date welcomed thousands of students to its digital platforms comprising several support elements including advice and information, student stories, direct support services (from phone lines to text to peer support services) and signposting to university and students’ union services. Plus, in recognition of the fact that the pandemic has impacted groups of students in different ways, a range of tailored services and content has also been created.
Rosie added: “This isn’t about apportioning responsibility to any single part of the higher education sector, it’s about working together to build healthy and supportive student communities, maintain services and keep conversations going – which includes efforts by universities, the Government’s Department for Education, the NHS and health systems, sector bodies, charities like ours and of course students themselves – as we know how important peer support is as well.
“It has been great to see how far we have come in the past ten years, now with 41 universities signing up the University Mental Health Charter to create cultural change at their institutions. However more needs to be done, more people need to get involved. The more we work together the greater the impact we can have. But we must keep student wellbeing front and centre for the sake of our students’ health as well as the immeasurable impact our university communities continue to have on our society.”
To find out more about University Mental Health Day visit www.unimentalhealthday.co.uk
To access Student Minds’ mental wellbeing resources, visit www.studentspace.org.uk