The Government has urged Universities to improve their services for students with mental health issues. It has pledged to award a certificate of excellence to institutions which meet new standards of mental health care, and wants universities to offer an opt-in service for vice-chancellors to contact families if students find themselves in a mental health crisis.
‘We want to make sure that every young person at university is better supported in the future, as far as their mental health and wellbeing is concerned,’ said Universities Minister Sam Gymiah.
Student mental health has become an increasing matter of concern over recent years, with the Office for National Statistics estimating that 95 students in England and Wales committed suicide in 2016-17. Universities UK report 94% of institutions experiencing a sharp rise in demand for support services, and raised the danger that some students ‘slip through the gaps’ because the lack of co-ordination between universities and the NHS.
Mr Gymiah proposes drawing up a charter, with input from stakeholders such as Student Minds, the Office for Students, Universities UK and the National Union of Students, which institutions can sign up to. Those who demonstrate best practice will be awarded a certificate of excellence.
‘Some traditional vice-chancellors see the prime purpose of their university...as training of the mind. But the pastoral care for students has to be there as well for a university to fulfill its full purpose,’ said Mr Gymiah.
The news comes just as Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, has announced that a ‘major ramp-up’ of children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is needed, in the wake of the Government’s promise to increase NHS funding.
Sir Simon claimed that a forthcoming survey would show a big increase un young people experiencing mental health issues, which he attributed partially to internet use. He described CAMHS as ‘one of the big things’ that had to come out of the long-term NHS plan.