YUSU have published new details of improvements to mental health provision for students. The measures have been introduced to address the growing “crisis” in mental health support at the University.
In March 2016, a report was commissioned by the University into the state of mental ill-health at York and the availability of treatments. The resultant “Graham Report”, found alarming increases in mental ill-health which had not been addressed by outstanding support services. The report concluded that urgent and extensive improvements were required to address the situation. A total of 12 internal and external actions were recommended for implementation within 12 months of the report’s publication.
The University then announced in September that £500,000 would be spent on bettering mental health provision over the next three years. The announcement promised to expand the in-house counselling service and protect funding for counselling initiatives such as Nightline. It also detailed that two new members of staff would be brought in, to ensure that those who need urgent appointments can be seen quickly.
It had been unclear exactly where the promised £500 000 would be spent and no major new announcements had been made until now, but a recent YUSU blog post from Dom Smithies, the Community & Wellbeing Officer, assuaged concerns by clarifying where improvements have been made.
A new integrated University of York website specifically for student mental health has been created in order to help students get information on support. This new site is an overhaul of the dated mental healtpage with much better signposting. The University will also be updating its policies around mental health in accordance with recommendations from The Student Mental Health Forum, which was established late last year. Student-facing staff (including academics) will also be given Mental Health First Aid training, which is hoped to have a positive impact in the broader understanding of mental health issues facing students.
Changes to the Open Door & Disability service are also underway. 34 students who have used the service have been recruited to give feedback as a focus group based on their experiences. A Senior Practitioner and a Practice Manager are also currently being recruited for Open Door & Disability to develop the service. A separate Assistant Registrar has also been employed by the University to “promote community cohesion and respect”. An element of this role will specifically look at tackling social media abuse, whilst acting as a liaison between the University, Open Door & Disability, and campus Security.
The University is also working to establish links with the City of York and local NHS providers. Since the closure of Bootham Park Hospital in 2015, the University is working to find new avenues of NHS support for students with mental health issues in and around the local area.
Smithies believes that these changes (and more) will make York a “trailblazer” for other higher education institutions tackling issues surrounding mental health.
University Registrar David Duncan commented: “The extra funds allocated to support mental health provision have now been deployed and additional staff are in post. We believe we have good provision in place and are working closely with the campus GP practice and local agencies to consider what more can be done. We will continue to extend training for staff across the campus to improve referrals and ensure that students who need help receive it at the earliest possible stage.”