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The Mental Health Manifesto

Monday 14-12-2015 - 13:38
Mh blog

Earlier this year we ran Mental Health Awareness Week, with a whole host of events focused on helping you understand how to improve the wellbeing of yourself and those around you.

Following NUS research which found that 92% of students identified as having had feelings of mental distress, we’ve used this awareness week as an opportunity to find out more about what worries you and what you do to help yourself. With the findings from our survey, plus research about what’s happening with mental health support across the University and Huddersfield, we’ve created our own Mental Health Manifesto.

You told us that the top five things you worry about are:

  • Balancing your workload with other commitments
  • Assignment deadlines
  • Too much coursework
  • Not being able to get a job after graduation
  • Not having enough money

It’s not a massive surprise to us that you’re the most worried about academic and financial matters, and it’s the same story in the SU Advice Centre. It was good to hear that most of you have your own ‘self-help’ measures in place though, and are relaxing with friends, watching TV, taking a bath or talking to family when you feel like your worries are taking over. When you need to talk, you tend to turn to friends, family, and the student Wellbeing and Disability Services.

Unfortunately, we think the bigger picture for students struggling with mental health issues is pretty bleak. Each year, the University Disability Services report a ‘dramatic increase’ in the numbers of students disclosing a mental health issue. To make matters worse, from September 2016 cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance take effect, which helps fund specialist mental health tutors at University and other relevant support such as note takers, mentors and specialist software.

Funding locally has also been hit, with charities such as Pathways, Artists in Mind and The Nerve Centre closing or having to become businesses as their funding disappeared. Support for people struggling with mental health conditions is drying up as a result. 

According to HUCS (Heads of University Counselling Services), there are, as you might expect, a myriad of reasons for declining student wellbeing. They feel that issues such as a fear about the economy and a perceived lack of jobs, plus difficult transitions to higher education, are meaning that students are frequently overwhelmed by their anxiety. This is backed up by you in our survey, with many of you worrying about life after University – whether you will get a job or have enough money. Changes to student finance, including the replacement of maintenance grants with increased student loans will only serve to accentuate these fears.

We believe that there is more that can be done. We are therefore asking the University to make the following pledges to support students at Huddersfield:

  • Take a holistic view of pastoral care for students, with academic departments and support services linking together for the benefit of those with mental health worries.
  • Ensure the personal tutor system is comprehensive; that students in all Schools and in all years and modes of study have a named personal tutor who understands how to refer students for wellbeing help if required.
  • Develop a buddying or mentoring scheme so students can have access to a peer to help with the transition to higher education
  • Foster a stronger community atmosphere in each School, so students don’t get lost in the crowd of a huge student population.
  • Work with us at the Students’ Union to tackle lad culture, to encourage respectful behaviour amongst the whole student population.
  • Invest in more staff in Wellbeing Services to reduce waiting lists for initial assessment and counselling, improving retention and preventing students from falling foul of attendance monitoring regulations
  • Actively support Students’ Union awareness campaigns to improve mental health and students’ involvement generally in the SU community
  • Improve the help for students transitioning from school to university, and from year to year whilst at uni, so that living away from home for the first time, or getting to grips with more independent study, isn’t quite so troubling.
  • Improve the PDP modules and other relevant curriculum areas to include wellbeing, mental health awareness, and consent / respect workshops.
  • Support students with concerns about their future beyond their time at Uni with broader careers advice and support about how best to make sure they do get a job when they graduate.

In short, we call on the University to help stem the tide of worsening student mental health by investing time and resources in supporting students. Let’s work together to break the chain between the challenging nature of study and mental health, and make student life better.

 

The Student Voice Team

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