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Top UK universities lacking in student mental health policies

Leading universities in the UK have been found to lack comprehensive student mental health policies, despite growing concerns from the government.

An investigation, carried out by Huffpost, reviewed the student mental health policies of The Complete University Guide’s top 20 universities in the UK.

It revealed that two prestigious universities do not have policies specific to student mental health, while eight institutions with mental health policies in place are seeking to revise them amid scrutiny from Whitehall.

The results come after the UK’s education minister, Sam Gyimah, told university vice-chancellors: “Collectively, we must prioritise the wellbeing and mental health of our students – there is no negotiation on this.”

The investigation showed that the University of Birmingham and the London School of Economics (LSE) do not have policies in place specific to the mental health of their students.

Despite containing 33,000 scholars across five separate colleges, the University of Birmingham acknowledged that they do not have a single mental health policy for its students.

However, they claimed that they have a “collection of advice, guidance and procedures that (they) apply on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the right package of support is in place, when it is needed.”

Furthermore, the university said it is “proactive in ensuring students are signposted to and supported in accessing appropriate statutory and voluntary organisations, such as NHS services”.

We must prioritise the wellbeing and mental health of our students

– Sam Gyimah

The University of Birmingham was also recently blamed for not doing enough for students with mental health problems despite advocating its “Mental Health Policy Commission” after a 22-year-old English undergraduate committed suicide in April.

Similarly, LSE admitted to its lack of student mental health policies but went on to say that they are “committed to providing expert and accessible services to students
and ensuring (they) have a highly capable response to urgent, sensitive situations.”

Several universities claimed that their policies were currently being amended or would be updated in the next 12 months, when questioned by Huffpost.

According to the Institute of Public Policy Research, the number of students who have disclosed a mental health condition to their university has increased five times since 2006-7.

The Office for National Statistics revealed that at least 95 students took their life during their time at university in the past year.

Furthermore, Huffpost found that the individual advice for staff on mental health at the University of Cambridge had not been updated in the past six years, although they claimed that their student mental health policy was “in development”.

The number of students who have disclosed a mental health condition to their university has increased five times since 2006-7

All of the 18 universities which responded to HuffPost’s questions said they took student mental health seriously and had invested heavily in pastoral care.

The University of Warwick stated that it is “committed to working with students to improve provision and seek new ways to provide support.”

UCL said the welfare of it students was “paramount” while Loughborough told HuffPost it has an annual plan for the delivery of mental health support services
but added that its 2007 policy “does need updating and a review is taking place now.”

Universities UK made a statement representing all universities, saying that “mental health should be part of the university mission and central to the offer and overall experience”.

It added that “isolated interventions or services are inadequate to address the ‘wicked’, multifactorial challenge of mental health” when outlining the importance of a unified approach to tackle student mental health problems.

As part of the Mental Health in Higher Education programme, Universities UK has supported a Student Voice Forum facilitated by StudentMinds and the NUS.

Mental health services available to students include the Warwick SU Advice Centre, Wellbeing Support, and Mind, which is open Monday to Friday from 9am-6pm, and can be reached via 0300 123 3393.


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