Announced on University Mental Health Day, the Government has pledged a £1 million funding to benefit students at risk of developing a mental health condition.
The money is provided by the Department for Health and Social Care, it will go to the Office for Students- the university regulator. The OfS is asking bidders to submit their suggested proposals for targeting students who may be at greater risk of developing ill mental health, and find it tough to get sufficient support.
Successful projects will aim to target groups of students who might face barriers in accessing support, for example carers, part-time and international students and those on placements as part of their course.
The projects will also be assessed on how they use innovative and technological approaches to addressing mental health issues, corresponding with the new NHS drive for improvement in digital support.
Research suggests that groups including black or ethnic minority students (BAME), those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to develop a mental health condition.
In a 2019 survey, 17% of students reported having a mental health condition (up from 12% in 2016) and one in four students say they often or always feel lonely, according to a report by HEPI.
OfS research has highlighted how outcomes for some student groups are more likely to be impacted by mental health problems. It has shown that the degree attainment gap between black and white students with a reported mental health condition is 26.8 percentage points.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:
‘Going to university can be a really challenging time, especially if you face added pressures or if you are balancing studies alongside other commitments like carers and mature students. It is vital no student is put at risk by not getting the help they need. Universities must step up to this challenge, and this funding will help them and the sector by looking at ways support can be better targeted and improved.’
The Government also has an ambitious programme supporting good mental health in schools and colleges, implementing a range of measures outlined in the 2018 Green Paper. This includes introducing new Mental Health Support Teams, training for mental health leads in schools and colleges, and the £9.3 million Link Programme to ensure more joined up care with specialist NHS services.
Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said:
‘All students deserve the opportunity to thrive at university and college, but for too many mental ill-health remains a significant barrier. We know that there are many factors which can impact the wellbeing of students and situations where students may be or feel more vulnerable. Through this funding we want to support innovative and strategic solutions that can help ensure that all students, regardless of their background or how they study, get the support they need.’
This is alongside all children in schools being taught how to look after their mental wellbeing through compulsory relationships and health education lessons.
Leeds University Union Welfare officer Amy Wells is currently carrying out a survey looking at student access to mental health support. To carry out the survey, click this link here.