The University Mental Health Charter Programme has been launched to bring together universities that are committed to making mental health and wellbeing a top priority in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Led by UK student mental health charity, Student Minds, the initiative aims to create a UK-wide network where best practice can be shared so universities can better support the mental health of students and staff.
University Centre Leeds is one of 32 universities to become an early adopter of the charter, which includes a commitment to:
- Make mental health a university-wide priority
- Work with staff and students to provide properly resourced and effective support services
- Create a culture that promotes good mental health for the whole university community
Higher Education Student Support Manager at University Centre Leeds, Emma Lockwood, said:
“The University Centre is extremely excited and proud to be one of the first University Mental Health Charter members.
“All of our staff value student mental health and the institution has worked hard to create an environment where staff and students are encouraged to open up about their mental health and seek wellbeing support if needed.
“Students are offered different kinds of help such as counselling, information and guidance about external support and mentor support – as well as access to various campaigns, events and webinars that promote positive wellbeing.
“Help is also available with other areas that can impact mental health, such as finances, progression and study support. We are hoping to add to the support already available with a focus on peer support and the promotion of Fika, the mental fitness app.”
“Support had to be adjusted during the pandemic, with assistance moving to online platforms. We understood the importance of making sure our students were safe during isolation, therefore wellbeing calls and food parcels were arranged for those who were away from home.
“We worked with Student Minds by attending webinars and workshops to identify the needs of higher education students during the pandemic. We are looking forward to working with them more in future through the Charter programme, and to being able to welcome students back to the campus and build on the help already available.
“As an institution we are committed to working towards the themes and principles outlined in the University Mental Health Charter framework, to maintain and develop the work we are already doing. We look forward to fully engaging in the Charter Programme and to working towards achieving a Charter Award.”
Dean of University Centre Leeds, Janet Faulkner, added: “We are committed to offering our students excellent all-round support which includes academic, learning, welfare and mental health support.
“We recognise that a growing number are asking for mental health assistance, especially during the present time, and have reviewed our support systems to offer an enhanced service.
“This commitment has been reflected in the latest National Student Survey results – where University Centre Leeds’s satisfaction rate for mental health support during Covid was 26% above the national average. Our students’ mental health and wellbeing is of paramount importance and membership of the University Mental Health Charter demonstrates our commitment to supporting them.”
Working towards a higher standard of mental health support
The Charter Programme was piloted in 2020 at the University of Derby, Hartpury University and Glasgow Caledonian University.
Even before the coronavirus outbreak the prevalence of mental health difficulties in students was on the rise, with the number declaring a pre-existing mental illness to their university having more than doubled since 2014/15.
And 58% of students say their mental health is now worse than it was before the pandemic started.
CEO of Student Minds, Rosie Tressler OBE, said:
“The last year has highlighted even more the need for a renewed focus and investment in the mental health and wellbeing of our university communities.
“Now is the time for the universities to come together as part of a collaborative effort to enact long-term, strategic change.
“We are inspired by the number that have committed to coming together as part of the University Mental Health Charter Programme to ensure improved and more equal mental health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole university community; creating a higher standard of mental health support across the whole higher education sector.
“Together, we can create a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.”
The Charter Programme was developed in consultation with staff and students, with initial funding from the UPP Foundation and the Office for Students and further funding provided by Jisc and the Charlie Watkins Foundation.