UMHAN was established in 2003 as an information-sharing network for mental health specialists working in Higher Education. UMHAN was a key part in a series of important firsts in Higher Education, including the emphasis on practical and whole-institution approaches to mental health and illness, the development of mental health-specific services in Higher Education, facilitating awareness-raising of mental health and illness, and increasing the appropriate uptake of Disabled Students' Allowances for students with mental health conditions. Importantly, UMHAN members connected the work being undertaken by specialists in Higher Education with national initiatives regarding social exclusion, health promotion, place- and context-based provision for people with mental health conditions, and tackling mental health inequalities for students with mental health conditions.
UMHAN was founded by professionals in mental health work and has been instrumental in maintaining and improving the professional development and standards of mental health specialists and services in Higher Education.
While UMHAN has broadened its membership to include other types of mental health-specialist roles and has been involved in consultations and initiatives undertaken by other organisations, its core aims have remained remarkably persistent over the years; these reflect the needs of specialists working in education, the requirements of people with mental health conditions undertaking education, and the benefits of positive action in education and mental health to students, education and society at large.
Our core membership is made up of professionals working either in a Mental Health Adviser (MHA) role (or similar) or in Specialist Mental Health Mentoring (SMHM). Over 120 institutions are represented.
The majority of SMHMs became members through our accreditation route, which has now closed. These were largely people with significant experience in mental health as well as supporting students as a mental health mentor in HE. Many also work as Specialist Autism Mentors, or Specialist one-to-one Study Skills and Strategy Support - Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD/Autism) and as such have a range of qualifications.
Mental Health Advisers normally either have a postgraduate qualification in Mental Health or a professional qualification, and many have extensive experience of working in the public sector. Some MHA UMHAN members have been in the role for more than 10 years.
The professions represented are Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Social Work, Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy.
We have recently started welcoming a wider range of members, including those who directly manage MHAs and SMHMs, but also other education professionals with a mental health remit.