Universities Pledge to do More to Support Students Trying to Access Mental Health Services

Universities UK’s Mental Health Taskforce has published new guidance for universities and NHS services working with students needing to access mental health services.

75% of all mental illness develops by the age of 24 years and research by the IPPR found that over the past five years, 94% of universities have experienced a sharp increase in the number of people trying to access support services, with some institutions noticing a threefold increase.

For most students, university is an enjoyable and life-changing experience. For a significant minority, including those who have a pre-existing mental health condition, the transition into higher education may be difficult to deal with and may disrupt existing informal support or formal care. For others who develop difficulties during their time at university, access to appropriate care can be challenging.

Talking about the launch of the new guidance, Minding our Health, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and Chair of UUK’s Mental Health in Higher Education Advisory Group, said  “The system of mental health care for students must be improved.  Health services aren’t properly designed to help students as they move from home to university.  This is too important to ignore and we must not fail a generation by not doing what is required.

“I call on national and local government, schools, colleges, the health service, voluntary organisations and universities to work together. This will give us the best chance of supporting students through the significant transitions they face during their early lives.

“Students must be at the centre of these partnerships and senior leadership within universities and the NHS must sustain the changes.”

Key Recommendations

  • Services need to organise locally and address service issues as they arise. They should be developed with local multi-agency input, including the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, Public Health teams, and secondary care organisations including mental health trusts, and higher and further education leads.
  • Universities need to work with partners to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.  This includes initiatives to support individuals, strengthen communities and reduce stigma and reduce barriers to positive mental health.
  • Links between NHS providers and student services should be developed to create
    ‘student mental health teams’ supporting students within universities and facilitating timely and seamless referrals for those who need
    specialist help.
  • ‘Student passports’ should be developed to help students address services at university and at home where required.
  • Services should be user-centred and co-produced with students – health care and
    educational objectives should be addressed together.
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