On January 31st , our Development and Operations Worker, Miriam Chappell, presented at the Westminster Briefing conference on ‘Supporting Student Mental Health and Wellbeing.’ Sitting on a panel alongside Student Minds and the Chair, Ed Pinkney, they discussed how to achieve a comprehensive approach to mental health within institutions.
In her presentation, Miriam outlined some of the challenges facing students in terms of their mental health, and challenges universities face in providing for them. Focusing on changes to Disabled Students’ Allowance, Miriam explained how the changes are affecting mental health provision.
Specialist Mentors, funded by DSA, must now be quality assured. As part of this, they must be a member of a professional body. Miriam explained how UMHAN had arranged to provide membership for mentors in light of this policy.
Through UMHAN membership, Specialist Mentors will be represented nationally, and gain opportunities for meetings, training events, and sharing good practice. The opportunity for continuous professional development and supervision has been lacking for many mentors previously, with a high proportion of lone workers. UMHAN recognises and is aware of the challenge facing the sector as the changes to DSA come into practice. However, we remain optimistic for long-term, positive change, and excited to receive mentors as members.
The talk then moved to key recommendations for universities in handling student transitions. The key recommendations were:
- Make a student-friendly version of disclosure practices and fitness to study policies, to be shared widely
- All staff should be aware of these policies and know how to recognise a student who is struggling with their mental health. UMHAN advocates a Whole University Approach.
- Methods should be shared across universities, as UMHAN does through its best practice and peer support forum.
- Raise awareness internally and nationally through campaigns such as University Mental Health Day.
Miriam reflects on the day:
“With an audience primarily made up of staff from student support services, this was a great opportunity to talk to an audience of potential UMHAN members. I also had the pleasure of meeting some UMHAN members. I enjoyed listening to the other speakers and sharing ideas of how best to support students."