University charter will make student wellbeing a priority

Students at Lancaster University. STOCK IMAGE.
Students at Lancaster University. STOCK IMAGE.
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The mental health of students has leapt to the top of the education agenda as a new mental health standard is rolled out for universities.

The Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has announced a new charter developed in partnership with leading charities and higher education bodies, outlining the criteria universities need to meet to gain the recognition, and will call on them to sign up to ‘avoid failing a generation of students’.

Peter Hindle with Sam Gyimah MP (S)

Peter Hindle with Sam Gyimah MP (S)

The plan comes as it was revealed that in some institutions, around one quarter of students are either being seen or are waiting to be seen by university counselling services.

And data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows student suicide rates have risen by more than one fifth in a decade.

Mr Gyimah (pictured inset) said: “We want mental health support for students to be a top priority for the leadership of all our universities. Progress can only be achieved with their support – I expect them to get behind this important agenda as we otherwise risk failing an entire generation of students.

“This is not a problem that can be solved overnight, but we need to do a better job of supporting students than is happening at the moment.”

Edge Hill University student Olivia Williams on the red sofa with Steph McGovern and Naga Munchetty where she spoke about mental health issues among students.

Edge Hill University student Olivia Williams on the red sofa with Steph McGovern and Naga Munchetty where she spoke about mental health issues among students.

It’s been welcomed by Lancashire’s universities which say they are working hard to help students with issues.

A Lancaster University spokesman said: “We are very proud of our counselling and mental health service which offers an excellent service to students who are facing mental health difficulties and we have a specialist team of advisors, counsellors and psychological wellbeing practitioners.”

Face-to-face sessions with practitioners and also group work sessions are offered to help with coping strategies. All student referral forms are assessed on the day following receipt. Almost all students are offered an appointment within three weeks of referral. Urgent referrals are prioritised and wherever possible are seen on the same day.

But, Edge Hill Student Union’s vice-president of welfare, Rosie McKenna said: “Student mental health is something that, rightly, has been moved to the top of the agenda for Universities UK, and institutions around the country are starting to sit up and listen.

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“It’s far from good enough, and much, much more needs to be done. Having events and awareness days to relieve stress are good and important, don’t get me wrong, but puppy rooms aren’t going to solve the crisis of weeks long waiting lists for counselling, and having a self-care day won’t make depression or bipolar disorder go away.”