Being aware of, and looking after, one’s mental health is so important at all stages of life, none more so than when at university. Studying hard for a better future while you adapt to new surroundings and people can be incredibly demanding. Sadly, stories of bright individuals who have succumbed to the stresses of university life are not uncommon which is why we must do much more to stop further needless tragedies.
There is growing recognition of the mental health challenges faced by the UK’s higher education sector. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency the number of students who disclosed a mental health condition almost doubled between 2012 and 2015 to nearly 45,000. However, national figures suggest that mental health difficulties within higher education are currently under reported as just 1 in 125 students and around 1 in 500 staff have disclosed a mental health condition to their university. Given these startling statistics, I very much welcome the news that the mental health charity, Mind, and Goldman Sachs have teamed up to create a new £1.5 million partnership which will provide mental health support in 10 universities, including the London School of Economics.
The Mentally Healthy Universities programme will be delivered by Mind and will reach over 6,000 students and staff across the LSE and the nine other universities in its first two years. This important programme will provide support and specialist training to equip universities with the knowledge, skills and confidence to support their own mental health and that of others. This includes resilience training for students and workplace wellbeing workshops for final year students who are about to graduate and transition into the workplace. Goldman Sachs is a major recruiter of university graduates and its backing for this programme is part of broader efforts to improve mental health support in the workplace and wider communities. With a focus on students in their first and final years of study, the programme will address transitional moments in students’ lives that can bring added challenges and pressures.
Student mental health is a priority for this government, which is why it is has worked with Universities UK, the Office for Students, and other stakeholders in the higher education sector to develop guidance on measures to help prevent suicide. The government is also working hard on embedding the Step Change programme within the university sector, which calls on higher education leaders to adopt mental health as a strategic priority and adopt a whole-institution approach. In addition, the government actively backs the introduction of a sector-led University Mental Health Charter, launched in June 2018, which we hope will drive up standards in promoting student and staff mental health and wellbeing.
University is often a formative experience for those that decide to go. Giving students the support throughout their time studying is incredibly important if they are to make the most of the opportunity and fulfil their ambitions. This initiative from Mind and Goldman Sachs can help to achieve this, for which I am grateful.