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UUK group chair says students should declare mental health on university applications

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Chair of the Universities UK’s mental health working group says that students should declare their mental health problems on their university applications.

Professor Steve West, Universities UK’s wellbeing chairman, said at the Westminster Higher Education Forum that UK universities are heading towards a mental health crisis that cannot be solved by simply hiring more councillors.

According to Professor West, who is also Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England, universities will be able to support students more effectively if they have a better understanding of their needs.

West therefore urged students to inform their prospective universities of any mental health problems. He said: “It won’t affect their application. We want to be able to support them through their studies.

“Access to the right help has become increasingly difficult as more and more students and staff members are requiring support year on year,” says Professor West.

Several universities across the country are now implementing measures to strengthen their mental health provisions as concern from parents has grown over how well their children are coping with the pressures of university life.

We would prefer students to indicate they need that support; then we can put something in place

For example, Bristol University announced earlier this year that it is spending £1 million on improvements, including 28 “well-being advisers”.

The raft of measures outlined by Bristol university in an attempt to tackle the growing concern over mental health issues follows a spate of six student deaths, all suspected to be suicides.

The University of Warwick and SU have also made plans for improving mental health services this year, including focus groups held at the beginning of the term to ask students how they thought the situation could be improved.

In Scotland alone, 45,724 students have sought help for mental health related problems over the last five academic years according to statistics compiled by the Liberal Democrats Party.

West states: “We have recognised the answer isn’t just putting more and more counsellors or resources in. We have to find a different way of managing this.”

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