The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy - Universities and Colleges division (BACP-UC) and University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) represent the majority of mental health practitioners working in student mental health, with nearly 880 members between us (378 and 501respectively). This includes staff with years of practice in university mental health services but also in external mental health support providers and statutory bodies.
We welcome the recent focus on student suicide and information sharing practices by the Government and sector bodies such as Universities UK - this is long overdue despite university mental health services being longstanding and well-developed.
Student suicide is an understandably emotive topic; in addition to the loss of an individual, the impact is felt deeply by family, friends, peers and a wide range of staff.
There is an urgent need for universities to develop explicit and clearer policies around information sharing. We are concerned about the potential impact on students' trust in mental health support at university when “opt in” schemes for consent are introduced. Students need reassurances that their confidential information remains so; and our member survey shows an accurate picture of how and when information is currently shared - with the student at the centre.
The purpose of this document is to explore the complexities of what is being intimated by external bodies and Government in terms of creating different information sharing practices for adult students than the rest of the population, alongside highlighting the need for an accurate reflection of what is already happening “on the ground”.
As the survey was anonymous we do not have information regarding which organisations or nations responses were from; however, the discussion and recommendations are based on legislation in England and Wales. Some of this paper will still be relevant to colleagues across Scotland and Ireland however we recommend further work to ensure recommendations are relevant for all 4 nations.
- Clear information sharing principles
- Informed decision making
- Working with the NHS - clarifying boundaries and establishing processes
- Review of data collection and case management systems
- Mental Health Service Team Governance
- Common Codes of Practice across the sector
- Appropriate CPD for staff