Today sees the launch of new guidance focused on addressing one of the greatest challenges in student mental health - the coordination of care between the NHS and universities.
Over the last eight months, Universities UK have convened a Services Task Group, including representation from Student Minds and colleagues across the health system, to develop good practice frameworks for services and clinicians to address the variation that exists and improve mental health care for further and higher education students.
Student Minds have been working with our partners to ensure students’ experiences are at the heart of the approach, supporting the design of a student facing questionnaire and involving evidence from our previous research project ‘University Challenge’(1). The lived experiences in this guidance really highlight that NHS services are not currently adapted to the transient nature of student life, and that there is little targeted support for the specific needs of students. For instance one parent who commented;
“My daughter is in her first semester of her first year at university…our experience is a disjointed, complicated, stressful and timely one, with my observation that I have provided the role of case worker to help join up the dots, communicate and facilitate her best use of the help that’s out there. I can see how a sufferer can very easily slip through the net without this support and motivation.”
About the guidance, Student Minds’ Chief Executive, Rosie Tressler commented;
“The launch of today’s guidance for NHS leaders is an important milestone in transforming the state of student mental health. Not a week goes by without us hearing from either a student or a parent desperately trying to advocate for support in a system that is not currently set up for student life and the transitional nature of this health population of 2.3 million.
It’s important that the difficulties students experience in transitioning from home to university health services are brought to the forefront for NHS professionals. Whilst there are examples of best practice in some cities, a postcode lottery for student support exists.
This guidance starts the conversation on how change can be achieved, putting at the heart of it a focus on prevention, collaboration, co-production with students, and a recognition of responding to the diversity of the student population. We look forward to seeing how the 'place-based' partnership approaches which are taking place in areas such as Greater Manchester, Bristol and North London can expand, to ensure across the UK our health systems respond to the needs of students and transform young people’s futures.”
(1) Back in 2013, Student Minds undertook research to assess the impact of university transitions on access to treatment for students with eating disorders. This led to a report ‘University Challenge’, which involved engaging students, professionals and other key stakeholders in exploring the challenges students face. The research highlighted Recognising this we launched a campaign calling on the Department of Health to fill the gaps in student mental health support, and over 2,200 of our supporters signed a petition which called on the Department of Health to address the specific needs of students.
Thank you to all of the students, parents, health professionals, press ambassadors, and wider supporters that have taken part at all stages of this work to reach today’s important milestone.