University mental health
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Calls for universities to involve parents in student mental health crisis

Concerns have been raised over whether parents should be informed if their child is suffering from mental health problems at university.

A social mobility charity, My Big Career, wants universities to contact parents if there is concern for a student’s wellbeing.

They call for an opt-in policy where students can tell the university if they wish for third parties to be involved. This is to help prevent further cases of harm from occurring as the number of students reporting mental health issues has increased.

The charity pointed out that it can be hard to find information about a university’s policy on this before attending the university.

The Office for Students (OfS) and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) do not keep track of which universities offer these services.

The University of Warwick holds the policy that parents will not be informed if the University is concerned for their child’s wellbeing. This does not apply however when there is written consent from the student that information can be shared to a third party. This information is available on the Warwick wellbeing website for all prospective parents to see.

Universities should work to improve how they involve family members in mental health support, while ensuring that students’ best interests are central to any decisions about their care

A report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) revealed that 81% of students think there should be intervention where students are suffering from severe mental health problems. Of this 81%, 15% thought that intervention should be carried out in all circumstances, not just extreme cases.

The report also found that 18% of students thought that universities should not contact the families of students in any case.

Universities UK (UUK) have stated that involving the families of students could make matters worse and that students have the right to confidentiality. The organisation have contacted mental health and legal authorities on developing a guidance system for universities.

The Department for Education wants the university sector to review their current systems in order to improve their services. A spokesperson said: “Universities should work to improve how they involve family members in mental health support, while ensuring that students’ best interests are central to any decisions about their care.”

Last year, 16,000 students declared a mental health problem when applying to university – a 19% increase from the year before and double the figure of 2015.

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