Following a six month review, the University of York is now set to invest £500,000 in mental health provision, most of which will be channelled into the Open Door services and, according to University Registrar and Secretary David Duncan, “keeping waiting times as short as possible”.
The increase in funding comes at a time in which the mental health debate nationally is becoming increasingly prolific, and recently the think tank HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute) released a report in which they outlined how demand for mental health services is far outstripping supply within the university sector.
On the allocation of funding, Duncan commented “Most of the additional funding (which is spread over three years) is being spent on extra staff in the Open Door counselling team, with the aim of keeping waiting times as short as possible. We are also supporting positive interventions to encourage mental health and wellbeing, and are increasing training and awareness for non-specialist staff.”
The state of mental health at York has been under scrutiny for some time. Nouse revealed in May that, between 2011 and 2014, demand for Open Door services rose by 46 per cent, while issues relating to self-harm now make up around half of all ambulance call outs to the University (up nearly 20 per cent in the last year).
York has also seen five student suicides in just the last year – reportedly a record for English universities.
Despite the increase in funding, some have suggested that other new policies may have a negative impact upon student wellbeing. New legislation means that college tutors are not allowed to work beyond 6pm, limiting their ability to assist students with mental health difficulties.
Dom Smithies, the YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer said: “This news is hugely positive and we are glad to see the University listening to students, engaging with the report…and establishing mental health as a priority.”
Smithies admits that the funding does not represent “the ultimate solution,” but maintains that “the commitments announced are a massive step in the right direction, and students that need support will hopefully feel the benefits immediately”.
He concluded: “We will be continuing to work with the University to deliver on the actions that were recommended in the Task Group report and to ensure that this issue remains at the top of its agenda!”