Taskforce set up to help students over mental health at university

A taskforce is to be set up by the Education Secretary to support student mental health as young people transition into the “crucial” first year of university life.

Thursday, 7th March 2019, 6:00 am

One in 12 students in Yorkshire seeks support for their mental health on average, analysis last year revealed, with a 48 per cent rise in the number seeking help since 2012. The stark figures, detailing a picture at 11 universities across Yorkshire, listed attempts by universities to tackle the emerging issue as unions warned over rising pressures.

Now, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced new measures to help students navigate challenges around finances, workload, and moving away from home.

“Going to university should be a positive, life-changing experience,” said Mr Hinds. “Understandably for many young people, the idea of leaving home and starting to live independently can be exciting but also daunting.

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Education Secretary Damian Hinds arrives in Downing Street, London, for a cabinet meeting. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 5, 2019. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“We need to make sure students have the support they need to thrive at university and help these really be the best days of their life.”

Ahead of today’s announcement, to coincide with University’s Mental Health Day, Mr Hinds has revealed that the taskforce will look at how students moving from sixth-form or college can be better supported.

It follows work by the Department for Education to identify key areas of risk that can affect the mental health of people going to university.

These include pressures around independent living, from managing finances to alcohol and drugs misuse, to supporting them with learning skills and workload.

Other key areas include supporting students to make healthy relationships, and support for those facing pressures over loneliness, isolation, and access to wellbeing care.

The taskforce, to be known as the Education Transitions Network, will include members from the National Union of Students, Student Minds, Universities UK, the Association of Colleges and the Office for Students.

The network aims to look at successful initiatives in supporting students’ transitions, with the DfE citing the University of Huddersfield’s Flying Start induction as one such example.

“Juggling challenges like 
independent studying or managing finances can be hard enough, but with the added element 
being in a new place, surround-
ed by new people, it can for 
some be overwhelming,” said Mr Hinds.

“I’m delighted to have the expertise of the sector backing this vision and joining this taskforce. Our universities are world-leading in so many areas and I want them to be the best for mental health support too.

“Pinpointing these key areas which can affect student mental health is essential to the progress we must make to ensure every student can flourish in higher education.”

Rosie Tressler, chief executive of Student Minds, said: “We often hear from students and in our research that times of transition can significantly impact student wellbeing throughout their university experience. We therefore welcome the continued work of the Education Transitions Network, in enabling further collaborations in this space.

“On University Mental Health Day, and all year round, we need to ensure that student mental health is a strategic priority at our Universities and for health providers. Together, we can use our voices to improve the futures of millions of people.”