What is a Specialist Mental Health Mentor?
Specialist Mentors work to help students achieve their full potential at university while also mitigating the impact their mental health condition might have on them.
Mentors can work with students with a range of mental health conditions, and will help them improve their self-management competences, as well as helping them come to terms with their diagnosis. They can help explore the underlying causes that effect effective study, such as perfectionism, fear of failure and anxiety.
“I don't think I would be able to continue with my course without the help of my mentor. The opportunity to discuss and reflect on the problems that my disability causes in relation to my studies has been invaluable. I may have got more out of learning through reflection about my capabilities and overcoming my limitations from my mentoring than I have from my course in fact.” (BSc student, 2014)
Specialist Mental Health Mentors also provide support with timetabling, goal-setting, workload prioritisation, and managing expectations about appropriate levels of study. They will work with the student on short and long term targets, providing them with the tools and the mindset to achieve personal academic goals. You can find out more about the parameters of the role in the Student Loans Company's Disabled Students' Allowances guidance.
Specialist Mentors either have specific professional qualifications or equivalent experience in the field of Mental Health.
Where can I find them?
The Specialist Mentor role is normally funded by Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs). You can learn more about DSAs on the Government's website. Some Universities may fund specialist mentoring as an interim measure, while students are going through the DSAs application process, or for students who are not eligible for this funding. The Mental Health Adviser for any University should be able to provide detail on what is offered at their particular institution.
The DSAs process will include recommendations for a particular individual mentor or agency, and will also provide information about the number of hours funded and how to contact the mentor.
Many students with long term mental health conditions are eligible for support though DSAs, so please don't be put off by the terminology!
Become a Specialist MH Mentor
All Mentors are also subject to the current DSAs quality assurance framework, as recognised by the Department of Education.
Please see our webpage for the full list of required qualifications to become a DSA funded mentor. The mandatory qualifications for mentoring were set by the Department of Education after consultation within the sector. We can not provide further advice about how to obtain the qualifications listed. The UMHAN accreditation route is now closed and so we can only accept members with the listed qualifications.
There is no quick training route to become a mentor as it is a role which requires specialist knowledge and experience.
Become a Member
Specialist Mentors are encouraged to join the University Mental Health Advisers Network so that they may share best practice with other specialist support staff at various institutions and participate in peer support and development. Becoming part of the UMHAN network allows individual members to have their say in the wider development of services and become involved in creating guidance and policies for institutions and mental health services.