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Online student support extended following recommendations from Centre for Mental Health

Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, has extended its online support platform, Student Space, following recommendations from independent think tank, Centre for Mental Health.

Identifying a continued need for student mental health resources, Centre for Mental Health’s report recognised the ongoing value of Student Space, which was launched in August 2020 in response to the impact of the pandemic on UK students. The project was initially due to end in January but this has now been extended to provide support for the rest of this academic year in response to student need.

Student Space was developed in collaboration with services, higher education professionals, researchers and students. It comprises several support elements including: advice and information, student stories, direct support services (from phone lines to text to peer support services) and signposting to university and students’ union services. Plus, in recognition of the fact that the pandemic has impacted groups of students in different ways, a range of tailored services and content has also been created. 

To date, thousands of students have accessed Student Space, and focus groups conducted by Centre for Mental Health found that students considered the content ‘really helpful’, ‘current’ and ‘authentic.’

Rosie Tressler, CEO, Student Minds, said:

“Student Space has enabled us to reach over 250,000 people to date through our digital and tailored support to support their mental health. As the impact of the pandemic continues, it has been apparent just how much this has disrupted students nationally. 

This is why Student Minds is pleased to announce the continuation of Student Space, our bespoke programme to support students’ mental health throughout the pandemic. We are proud to be able to support students through the challenges posed by the pandemic, as well as other obstacles, such as imminent cost of living increases. 

This extension is made possible due to the partnership and funding from the Office for Students and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

Jess, a third-year student at the University of Exeter says she felt ‘extremely supported’ by Student Space. Jess has been struggling with OCD which became increasingly challenging during the pandemic. She said:

COVID-19 brought back for me old fears surrounding contamination, illness, and not being able to protect loved ones. Therefore, I felt as though if I didn’t wash my hands enough times then there was an actual chance that I could contribute to a family member getting ill or even dying, by spreading the virus. This led to me giving into a lot of my OCD behaviours and compulsions more frequently, which I had before been able to overcome gradually over many years. 

“Unfortunately, my OCD became stronger, feeding off the most recent facts and figures broadcasted on the news, and this had a majorly negative impact on my relationships with those around me, my university work and grades, and severely damaged my self-esteem. 

“Student Space gave me the confidence to contact my university wellbeing service and obtain the adjustments that I needed for assignments, such as essay extensions and rest-breaks during exams. Their tips on how to manage a mental health difficulty during the pandemic, and advice on looking after my general wellbeing and managing finances whilst at university was particularly useful. Greater awareness and better education on these matters is such an important and great starting point, so I’m thrilled to see Student Minds bringing this into action.”

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said:

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions of people’s mental health. Students have faced special challenges over the last two years. Many have faced isolation, trauma and loss which may cast a long shadow over their lives. Student Space has offered a place of hope for students who are concerned about their mental health and need to know where to go for support. Our report shows the value of this resource and why it is still needed in the aftermath of the crisis.”

Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan said:

“Throughout the pandemic, protecting students’ mental health and wellbeing has been deeply important to me. With our recovery from the pandemic surging forward, I am determined to ensure that we do not lose sight of the importance of student mental health support. I am therefore delighted that via the Office for Students, we will be providing funding for the extension of Student Space – which provides one-to-one phone, text and web chat facilities – through to the end of this academic year. As today’s data shows, since August 2020, Student Space has helped tens of thousands of young people across the country navigate their studies through the challenges created by the pandemic, and by extending the service, even more students will get the help they need”.

Professor Steven West CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President, UWE and President of Universities UK shared:

“The pandemic has had a significant impact on our student populations and there is no doubt that for a significant number their mental health and wellbeing has been impacted in similar ways to the rest of society. They have reached out and accessed support from their universities, families and friends. But they have also engaged with student Minds and Student Space which has provided open access to support right across the UK adding an important component to a rich eco-system tailored to support students. The additional funding to extend this service is critical and welcomed and I would encourage all universities to work collaboratively with Student Space to bring this offer to the attention of all student communities.”

Chris Shelley, Director of Student and Academic Services, University of Greenwich shared:

During the Covid-19 pandemic the mental health and wellbeing of our students has been at the forefront of all our minds, so it is reassuring to know that they have access to the fantastic bank of resources that Student Space provides. Having support available at the touch of a button is vital to the modern student, and the fact that Student Space provides bespoke options for a range of demographics of students who may have been more acutely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic makes their resource all the more important.”

To access Student Minds’ mental wellbeing resources, visit www.studentspace.org.uk.

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