There’s been a lot in the news recently about mental health amongst university students. It’s a hot topic and rightly so. Like mental health in the general population, the mental wellbeing of our students has not been appropriately addressed in the past. However, it’s being treated more seriously now. In this article, I’d like to talk about what is being done, and how we can learn from this example in the rest of the education sector.
Why is there a problem with students’ mental wellbeing?
Mental health problems are under-reported and under-treated throughout the population. However, amongst the UK’s students, there have been tragic results. In 2016, 146 students took their own lives. In April this year, 3 students died at Bristol University alone.
There is no doubt that university is a stressful time. It’s hard work, and there is a lot of pressure. Students may be living away from their families for the first time. They have to meet and live with a lot of new people. It can be tough to deal with.
If a student suffered from mental health problems as a child, there’s also an awkward transition between the NHS’ child and adolescent mental health services, and adult mental health provision. Often, patients can fall through the gap.
How is this being addressed?
It’s good to see that the authorities are taking mental wellbeing issues amongst students seriously. There have been a number of new initiatives from all sides.
The NHS have produced publicity urging students to talk to their friends or seek counselling if they feel things are getting on top of them.
Different universities have introduced many types of initiatives to encourage mental wellbeing amongst their students. They have introduced things like 24/7 counselling services, nightlines where students can phone to have a friendly non-judgemental conversation and wellbeing stands at open days.
Times Higher Education introduced scores for individual universities around how well they look after their students’ mental wellbeing. The top 5 were:
Harper Adams University
University of Chichester
University of St Andrews
University of Leeds
No one is suggesting the work is done. Universities UK, the trade body for the UK’s universities, have recommended:
More communication from universities and the local NHS about students who may need mental health services.
An assessment of the need for student-specific mental health services in individual towns and cities.
Promotion of positive mental health from universities, reducing the stigma around mental health.
Creating student mental health teams with NHS providers, spotting problems early and improving referrals.
The wider education sector
While we welcome these attempts to improve mental wellbeing for students, they are only a small part of the education sector. Teachers and school-age children are struggling through mental health issues too. What is being done to help them?
At Opogo, we’ve developed a social hub packed with rich content from our community experts. We deliver world-class E-Learning, engaging each of our user groups with relevant and bespoke content that users will want to engage with, from classroom behaviour management, STEM advice to practical career development. Our Opogo community comprises of expert speakers sharing their knowledge through rich content online and in the app, as well as running weekly development workshops in person.
We believe that children’s physical and mental wellbeing is paramount to everyone’s future. We invest in this through specialist educational programmes such as #TeachDigital and #TeachFit. #TeachFit is a free programme supporting children’s physical and mental health in school. You can find out more about #TeachFit by watching this very short video.
We are excited about transforming the lives of everyone in education.
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