Supporting student mental wellbeing has become an increasingly important issue within Higher Education. Universities must not only ensure that they are meeting their legal responsibilities but create the best experience for all their students.
Understanding ModernGov had the chance to speak with the chair for our Enhancing Student Mental Wellbeing course Dr Dominique Thompson; a student mental health expert who give us her insights on why mental health within universities is such an important issue.
Dr Dominique Thompson:
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the expression “university is not a therapeutic community”, when someone is determinedly trying to convince the others in the room, that less resource or emphasis should be placed on the wellbeing of students in Higher Education. They are of course correct in a literal sense, and university life should be about learning, experiencing new things and broadening your world. But how will our next generation do that successfully if they are too unwell to function, or are functioning at a consistently suboptimal level?
In fact, university is where many young adults have a wonderful opportunity to start anew, to move into different social circles, be their true selves, and try new things – and for many this is an opportunity they grab with both hands. However, I see so many in my work as a university GP, who live through a daily struggle to get out of bed and face the world, which is full of turmoil, uncertainty, lack of job or financial security, debt, and social pressure 24/7.
It would therefore seem obvious that whilst we should not be creating “therapeutic communities” at university, we should be creating an environment where people feel able to seek and ask for help, get the help they need in a timely fashion, and access urgent mental health crisis care the same day. This will not only benefit the individuals who receive this support, but also their friends, peers, academic staff, and families, as well as the university as a business.
If more students feel happy, well supported, and able to function to the best of their abilities, they will be more likely to achieve their potential and graduate with the skills to allow them to gain successful employment. If they are able to land and hold down a job in this challenging time because of the help they received at university – with regards to coping with mood instability, anxiety, and social phobia for example – then the university will also benefit from these positive employability statistics.
At the University of Bristol we have received recognition and awards for approaching mental health in a proactive way, tailored to the needs of students. We have recruited a psychologist alongside our GPs, and work closely with our university counselling service. Some of the counsellors help facilitate our mood skills groups for our most complex patients, and the psychologist provides in-house GP training. This multidisciplinary approach, along with a weekly clinic from a psychiatrist, has created a very strong, supportive, professional team, equipped to help the students, whatever the crisis.
There are so many good examples of university welfare provision in the UK, and I’m delighted to be involved in promoting good student mental health. I look forward to continuing this conversation with all of you who might be interested in looking after the next generation!
If you would like to discuss any of the details you have read in this blog; including our ‘Enhancing Student Mental Wellbeing’ course on 4th October, please contact us on 0800 542 9440 or email [email protected].
Get involved in the conversation!
Do you have a direct role with student mental wellbeing? Are you a student who a positive or negative experience with mental wellbeing at university?
We’d love to hear from you. You can tweet us using #UMGTraining @UModernGov.
We also run highly flexible in-housing courses, delivered directly to your organisation at a date that suits you, if you have a team of staff at your organisation that would benefit from this course. To do so, please contact our In-House training team on [email protected] to find out more.