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New online resource for universities to support student mental health

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Universities can today access a new online resource to support the rising number of students reporting mental health difficulties, following recent calls from the government to prioritise support in this area.   

The new Student Mental Health Evidence Hub – developed by TASO and a consortium of expert partners – is an open access digital resource which provides information and guidance for the higher education sector to improve support for student mental health.

The Hub – developed with the support of a dedicated student panel – will assist higher education practitioners responsible for designing and implementing interventions to support student mental health. It includes guidance on evaluating existing programmes of support, examples of current practice, and a first-of-its-kind toolkit outlining the evidence base on what works and mapping it to the University Mental Health Charter.

The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub reveals: 

  • A need for more rigorous evaluation of existing programmes of support for student mental health in UK higher education, as there is currently a lack of evidence on what works in this context. 
  • A strong evidence base on psychological support approaches – such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness – but a need to evaluate non-clinical strategies to improve student mental health, such as interventions designed to promote lifestyle changes, education, and self-care. 

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said:

“All students deserve high-quality, evidence-based mental health support, no matter where they choose to study. So it is great that TASO has responded to government calls to prioritise support in this area with a new online Hub which will provide universities with the resources they need to improve their existing programmes.

“This aligns with our three pillared approach to supporting mental health – funding vital services, spreading best practice, and setting clear responsibilities for providers.

“This is about championing social justice and giving students from all backgrounds the tools they need to make the most of their university experience, knowing that a safety net is in place should they need it.”

Dr Omar Khan, Chief Executive, TASO (Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education) said: 

“The recent rise in the number of students reporting mental health difficulties is staggering. We know that some student groups are more likely to report a mental health condition, such as students previously on free school meals. A lack of adequate support for student mental health can exacerbate and entrench existing inequalities.

“Students deserve to receive tried and tested support that we know will make a difference to their mental health and wellbeing. The new Student Mental Health Evidence Hub launched today provides the resources needed to start this work and I hope it will spur on more evidence-informed practice.”

Professor Edward Peck, Higher Education Student Support Champion and Vice-Chancellor Nottingham Trent University said: 

“Evidence and evaluation play a crucial role in advancing our understanding of what works to support student mental health. TASO’s Student Mental Health Evidence Hub is a valuable resource which will enable practitioners working in higher education to develop ever more robust approaches to supporting students.”

The project has been managed by a consortium of expert partner organisations to ensure the Hub’s value to the sector: AMOSSHE, SMaRteN (led by King’s College London), Student Minds, and What Works Wellbeing, with TASO as the lead partner. 

The Student Panel included students from various backgrounds, courses and higher education providers, all with an interest in promoting student mental health. The panel provided insights into how students experience current support systems in higher education.

The project was funded by the Office for Students to highlight and bring together existing evidence of effective interventions to support student mental health in higher education.

Reported mental health difficulties among university students have almost tripled in recent years, according to a recent analysis by The Policy Institute at King’s College London and TASO. 

John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said:

‘Understanding the needs of students who are struggling with mental health conditions is more important now than ever. Our Insight brief highlights how mental health affects specific groups of students differently. It is vital that universities and colleges evaluate and respond to the needs of these different groups.

‘We encourage universities and colleges to actively consider the risks presented in our Equality of Opportunity Risk Register, and seek insight and input from students, particularly those with experience of poor mental health, in the development of their approaches.  

‘The OfS has provided funding for a range of innovative programmes to help find ways to work together to find effective solutions for student mental health. We are pleased to be part of the government’s new Higher Education Mental Health Implementation Taskforce, which is drawing on a wide range of expertise and experience to progress projects and guidance aimed to improve mental health support for students in higher education.’ 

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