This report presents the findings of the UMHAN (University Mental Health Advisers Network) Member Survey 2023. The online survey was open to all UMHAN members for completion during September and October 2023. Members were asked to consider their responses in relation to the previous academic year (2022-23). A total of 104 members completed the survey, a response rate of 16.9 per cent which is consistent with prior member survey response rates from 2022 and 2021. 

The respondents included Specialist Mental Health Mentors (47.1 per cent), Mental Health Advisers (36.5 per cent), Managers (9.6 per cent) and Associate Members (6.7 per cent). Sections relating to caseload and evaluation were differentiated in the survey by Mentors, Advisers and Managers.

In addition to our annual questions about caseload and working conditions, we included questions about key areas: NHS waiting times, the Higher Education Mental Health Implementation Taskforce and the University Mental Health Charter.

The UMHAN Member Survey 2023 has revealed that the caseloads of many SMHMs, MHAs and Managers have stayed about the same this year or have actually increased. Mentors have observed an increase in the numbers of students awaiting diagnostic assessments for ADHD and/or ASC whilst Advisers have remarked on the complexity and higher levels of need amongst the students they support. 

Members feel that the work they do to support students with their mental health is frequently unacknowledged and unappreciated by university leaders and desperately under-resourced. In terms of their working conditions, whilst low pay coupled with increasing caseloads and responsibilities means some members are considering leaving their current role in the near future, a more flexible working environment, post-pandemic, was the norm for most respondents and was generally viewed positively. 

The majority of respondents are collecting, monitoring and evaluating data in relation to their support for student mental health with many members regularly using service user surveys as their main data collection tool. Lack of time and multiple data collection systems hampering efforts to successfully measure the impact of interventions and activities were the key evaluation challenges amongst members. 

Based on our survey findings, we have made the following recommendations:

  • Practitioner expertise: Senior HE leaders and managers need to liaise with their mental health support staff directly when undertaking strategic level work on student mental health.
  • Support for practitioner CPD: It is imperative that MHAs and SMHMs are encouraged and supported to undertake relevant CPD and that time for their CPD is protected.
  • Evaluation and research: Institutional researchers and evaluators should engage with their student mental health teams to incorporate their knowledge and support them to participate in evaluation activity where appropriate.
  • Equality Act 2010: HEPs should focus on their legal duties. Reasonable adjustments are an important yet overlooked support mechanism whilst Disabled Students’ Allowances are an underused component of support for students with mental health conditions and students should be encouraged to apply.
  • NHS resourcing: Senior HE leaders need to put pressure on the Government to ensure NHS funding remains at the forefront of conversations around student mental health.

I feel that my team and department greatly appreciates our work, but it remains mostly hidden to the rest of the university, including management. It would be great to have a bit more acknowledgement of the role we play in student retainment and success.

This sounds really simple, but from student feedback, it seems that students value someone to listen to them with a non-judgmental ear more than any other intervention we can offer.

I am often concerned as the Crisis teams in my area are so overworked and many times have called them with a student but got no reply or not got the help needed.

Our students have mixed experiences depending on where they live. Still very much a postcode lottery.

Pay and conditions are poor, hire and fire and zero hours contracts with a fragmented team leads to high staff turnover and discontinuity in support. I have done the job since 2011 and my hourly pay rate has dropped by over thirty six per cent.

Honestly the CPD is really great. This is truly one of the most beneficial professional memberships I've been a part of and a really lively, caring, invested community.

UMHAN Member Survey Report 2023

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