Universities UK has published a new framework to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of university students.
The step change framework – part of Universities UK's programme of work to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff in higher education – is aimed at supporting university leaders to help embed good mental health across all university activities.
With reported increases in the general number of young people suffering with mental ill-health, universities have seen increases in demand for student mental health support services.
The framework recommends universities work closely with the NHS to consider how mental health care services should be commissioned and delivered to student populations. It recommends also working in close partnership with parents, schools and colleges, as well as with employers and businesses.
Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England and chair of Universities UK's Working Group on Mental Health in Higher Education who advised on the framework, said: "Mental health matters to universities. University leaders care about their students and staff. We want to help them to thrive and succeed as well as to support them through mental health challenges.
"We can be proud of the work that higher education institutions do on mental health, the services they provide, the impact they have on those in distress or difficulties. We want to capture these positive activities, but also ensure that our response to this growing challenge is the right one."
The framework has been developed to help university leaders adopt a more comprehensive approach to mental health across the whole university population.
Professor Steve West added: "This framework is about getting universities to think about mental health and wellbeing across all their activities and people. From students to academics and support staff. From teaching and research to accommodation and relations with local communities. The step change in student mental health begins here."
Universities UK has worked in partnership with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to strengthen the evidence-base on mental health in higher education. Their independent report – Not by Degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK's universities – is being published on 4 September.
As part of the Mental Health in Higher Education programme, Universities UK has supported a Student Voice Forum facilitated by StudentMinds and the NUS. Their report is available on 4 September as Student Voices in the development of a whole university approach to mental health and wellbeing.