Our Policy Position
One of the most complex and urgent issues affecting students is mental health. Research has shown that while one in four people suffer from mental health conditions, 78% of students reported to have experienced a problem – and a third said they experienced suicidal thoughts. It has become a national, cross-party issue. In a speech in January 2017, Theresa May described mental health as a ‘hidden injustice’. A new green paper on children and young people’s mental health was released in December. It sets out plans to ` transform services in schools, universities and for families.
GuildHE is currently researching wellbeing practices on small campuses and in small HE communities. It will examine the challenges to engendering a culture of wellbeing, and how small and specialist HEIs do things differently. We are not only working with institutions but also with SUs to ensure that student voices are fully represented.
This work follows on from specific sector wide reports on Mental Health which we worked on jointly with UUK. However, we believe it is just as important to provide positive wellbeing skills to all students, as it is to provide specific interventions for those who suffer from poor mental health. We hope that the development of wellbeing strategies within our member institutions support students beyond their sometimes stressful university years, and provide them with the skills to face the challenges of their personal and professional lives forever.
We believe that to achieve the best strategy for student wellbeing, activities should be embedded across the provider, and all along the student lifecycle – from application to preparing them for employment post graduation. Our research has shown that at present the majority of providers do not have a formalised definition of wellbeing, which is a vital component to a coherent strategy on student support. Student expectations about what university life is like is often inaccurate and leads to issues of poor mental health. Students are sometimes overwhelmed by the workload, and their previous academic experiences have not fully prepared them for independent study. Instilling good academic skills right from the start is vital for student success and their wellbeing. There also needs to be better joined up working between HEIs and external support services such as mental health charities, the NHS and police and community safety officers.