Recent articles by the Times and the Telegraph have highlighted an increase in the number of students receiving adjustments in their studies due to mental health difficulties. Dan Doran, UMHAN Chair, and Lisa Brooks-Lewis, Committee Member, respond and share their expertise in setting reasonable adjustments.
The increase in student numbers declaring mental health problems is a more accurate reflection of the extent of mental health problems in the general population at around 1 in 4 (Mind).
This means Universities are now more aware of their students' needs and how to aid their retention and progression in their studies. Around 1.1% of students disclose a mental health difficulty (Equality Challenge Unit, 2014).
These adjustments should mean fewer potential negative consequences of having a psychiatric disability, such as fewer drop-out rates, less financial burden as a consequence of having a disability, and assessment methods that assess the knowledge and skills of students with mental health problems rather than the effects of mental health problems on performance in specific contexts.
For a student with mental ill health it is not optional as to whether adjustments are considered or not. It is a requirement by law of the Equality Act 2010.
For a student with mental ill health it is not optional as to whether adjustments are considered or not. It is a requirement by law of the Equality Act 2010, which aims to improve the access to goods and services including education.
Where a need is identified, it is the responsibility of the institution to justify why an adjustment cannot be made. Adjustments relating to exams, such as extra time, may benefit a student who is, for example, struggling with memory and concentration due to clinical depression. However there are a range of reasonable adjustments that may be appropriate within higher education. UMHAN's Exams Policy Position highlights these.
Where a need is identified, it is the responsibility of the institution to justify why an adjustment cannot be made.
It is important to note that universities may make interim arrangements for students who experience adverse life events such as sexual violence or bereavement, again the primary focus being the wellbeing of the student and their educational progression.
Exactly what adjustments are considered depends on an assessment of the person's needs and strengths. Mental health Advisers assess what adjustments will be proportionate and effective for the student’s individual need, and work with academic departments to ensure specific learning outcomes that the course is aiming to assess will be met. Though GPs and medical professionals may be sought to suggest adjustments it may be that this is not their area of expertise.
Mental Health Advisers assess what adjustments will be proportionate and effective for the student's individual need.
Making adjustments is the University's responsibility, and it will be important to have a combined expertise in mental health difficulties, creative learning methods, and the learning outcomes of the course, not least because some adjustments can in fact be more harmful or not meet learning objectives.
Lisa Brooks-Lewis, Mental Health Manager at Loughborough University and UMHAN committee member, talks about her experience developing policies and training on the topic of sexual violence.
Whilst in my role as Mental Health Advisor at Loughborough University, and due to my previous experience at Rape Crisis, I was fortunate to be asked to be involved with the development of the Sexual Violence Policy.
I was tasked with designing appropriate training for a Higher Education setting which I have now delivered to 72 core student services staff.
This work has been extremely positive and so in October 2016, when Universities UK released new Guidance for Higher Education, I felt proud of how much Loughborough University had achieved so far.
So, when approached in February 2017, I was happy to contribute to Epigeum’s online ‘Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence: Guidance for Staff’. Developed by experienced practitioners, this is an excellent online module based course aimed specifically for a Higher Education setting.
In March this year I was videoed for this online resource, highlighting the key issues relating to sexual violence. These include: the culture relating to sexual violence, consent, how to respond to a disclosure in a professional, supportive and boundaried manner as well as safeguarding and reporting.
Now, as a Mental Health Manager at Loughborough University and UMHAN regional coordinator, I would highly recommend this training alongside appropriate policy and face to face training, as a way to start the conversation to support and empower survivors of sexual violence.
It’s been a busy week for UMHAN, with two of our committee members presenting at conferences and training days. Hannah Abrahams of the Mental Health Promotion Working Group presented a training session for Patoss, while at the University of Salford Lisa Brooks-Lewis of the Press and PR Working Group presented at the ProtectED conference.
Patoss: mental health difficulties and students with SpLDs
In London, Hannah presented at a training day run by Patoss. Patoss is a professional association for staff working with students with specific learning difficulties.
UMHAN’s talk focused on the challenges students with Specific Learning Difficulties face to their mental health while studying at university, providing guidance on how a SpLD professional might identify and tackle warning signs in the students they work with.
Hannah’s advice covered the following:
ProtectED: Security in Education
In Salford, Lisa spoke at the Security in Education Conference organised by ProtectED, a student safety code of practice that rewards universities who show a commitment to all-round student wellbeing. Read more about ProtectED’s work and UMHAN’s involvement here.
As part of a packed day of discussion of the varied aspects of student safety, Lisa brought the mental health perspective, discussing trends in student mental health and methods to increase support available.
With UMHAN’s new working group structure, we’re able to take up more speaker opportunities than ever before. With working groups for areas for every area of focus, there’s something for everyone: from application assessment to promoting mental health equality.
UMHAN members: email firstname.lastname@example.org to register interest in a Working Group.
Interested in getting UMHAN involved in a speaker event? Email email@example.com - we’d love to hear from you.
The following is a response to an article published by the Guardian on Tuesday 23 May 2017, written by Rachel Fahy and Dan Doran, Mental Health Advisers.
A recent article by the Guardian has reported a high increase in the number of students dropping out of University due to mental health difficulties. UMHAN appreciates the attention this important issue has gathered, not least because of the consequences for people with health conditions or disabilities of dropping-out in terms of their esteem, recovery and long-term prospects, but also as an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to become aware of the complexity of the issue.
What does this increase show?
This increase is likely to reflect a combination of issues, not least the fact that mental health difficulties are the leading cause of disability amongst young people. The declaration rates by people with mental health difficulties going into Higher Education have increased: in 2007-8, 0.4% of students disclosed a mental health difficulty (Equality Challenge Unit, 2014), whereas by 2014-15 this was 1.56% (Equality Challenge Unit, 2016). While still low, this suggests a positive increase in willingness to disclose and a more accessible application process; however, students who require more support are at higher risk of dropping out should this support fail to be provided.
Also, the age of 80% of people in Higher Education matches the age range at which serious mental health problems develop (HEPI Report 88), so personal and practical barriers to completing education arise and will also be a factor. For students who will move between different healthcare Trusts, the provision of healthcare can become complicated and difficult to access at the time they may need it. For example, moving from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to Adult Mental Health Services, changing GP practice and often moving away from social support may all mean that problems that can occur during transition into and out of Higher Education are not supported.
"Mental health promotes academic achievement, and inclusion in socially-meaningful education promotes mental health. "
Mental health promotes academic achievement, and inclusion in socially-meaningful education promotes mental health. Higher stress levels have been reported among students than their non-student peers (HEPI:HEA 2016), and young people’s' general resilience is tested while undertaking a course of education; students who struggle personally or academically have an increased risk of developing a mental health difficulty. Increases in fees may also mean that, for anyone affected by a disability or mental health problem, financial costs become a greater concern to the extent that, from a cost-benefit perspective, education is viewed as less of a benefit to the person at that point in life.
University counselling services and mental health advisers have faced a 50% increase in students accessing their services, the Guardian found. Mental health difficulties, whether previously-diagnosed or newly-developed, can prevent students from unlocking their potential. Likewise, Higher Education itself may be structured in ways which present barriers for people experiencing mental health difficulties. UMHAN's view is that any approach that wishes to address drop-out rates should address both the personal and structural barriers to education. We can learn from those who have experienced these as well as those supporting them.
"Any approach that wishes to address drop out rates should address both the personal and structural barriers to education. "
The mental health advisers’ role
Mental health advisers work with students to help them manage their mental health and demonstrate their potential academically. They are often facilitating the transition of support for students with mental health difficulties, while guiding and advising students who have newly-developed mental health difficulties regarding diagnosis, potential treatment within the NHS, and with social support. Crucially, mental health advisers are also helping Higher Education providers consider how they may successfully retain students by addressing practical barriers. This key role can be the difference between a student dropping out or growing, graduating and fulfilling their potential.
The work of a mental health adviser in HE therefore aims to make a positive contribution to the life chances and opportunities of those who have experienced mental health difficulties. As the representative body of people in these roles, UMHAN welcomes the opportunity to work with other organisations and stakeholders across the sector to address drop-out rates.
22/3/2017 1 Comment
On 16th March, Universities UK held their Student Mental Wellbeing conference. UMHAN played an active role in the day, as Lydia Pell, UMHAN Chair, spoke alongside Anna Matthews of UMO (University Mentoring) on the benefits of mental health mentoring.
As Specialist Mentors are increasingly integrated into UMHAN’s membership, the role has never been more relevant to UMHAN’s aims. Bringing Mental Health Advisers and Mentors together, the similarities of the roles and their abilities to complement one another are clear. “Anna and I enjoyed presenting together as we work in similar ways with students, but in different models of providing mental health mentoring,” Lydia said.
What is Mental Health Mentoring?
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:
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."
The ProtectED Code of Practice was launched on Monday 6th February as a new accreditation scheme for universities to measure student safety. Focusing on five areas of student wellbeing, the code encourages universities to become members and gain accreditation through adherence to its code of practice.
The five key areas identified cover a wide range of focus points in improving student wellbeing and safety:
ProtectED is the first higher education scheme to comprehensively tackle student wellbeing and safety in this manner. Launched by the University of Salford, the scheme’s Advisory Board comprises advisers from higher education institutions, police, and more.
UMHAN were delighted to be included on this Board to provide guidance regarding university approaches to student mental health. With the peak age of onset for mental health difficulties coinciding with 80% of the population’s university years, and 29% of students reporting clinical levels of psychological distress in 2010, the need to focus on student mental health and wellbeing is increasingly clear.
UMHAN has been working as a key player in developing a new project focusing on Higher Education student and staff mental health and wellbeing. The project, developing a framework for institutions based on a whole-university approach to understanding mental health, was launched on December 2nd.
The programme aims to have every university pursuit actively involve mental health and wellbeing. This approach intends to encourage openness and discussion among both students and staff, empowering all involved to understand and address mental health difficulties within the university setting. The project is led by Professor Steve West, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West of England.
The project’s goals, as set out on the Universities UK website, are as follows:
Lydia Pell, UMHAN Chair, said: “UMHAN is delighted to be involved in this innovative project. The project has brought together all members of the university community, to highlight best practice in supporting students with mental illness and in proactive preventative work so that all members of the university community may have good mental health.”
On November 25th, UMHAN organised a free training day for members. Dave Wilson of the University of Cumbria and Liz Prance of York St John University presented the case for introducing American-style Behavioural Intervention Teams (BITs) at UK universities. The event was led and hosted by members of the Network, with around twenty-five attendees.
25/6/2015 0 Comments
25th June 2015
For immediate release
University Mental Health Advisers Network to give evidence on mental health to the Youth Select Committee
On Friday 26 June Dan Doran, Committee Member from the University Mental Health
Advisers Network (UMHAN) will appear before the Youth Select Committee to contribute oral evidence for its inquiry into mental health.
Dan Doran, UMHAN Chair
All All Party Parliamentary Group Conference Disclosure I Chose To Disclose Mental Health Mental Health Adviser Mental Health First Aid Mental Health Inquiry Personal Experience Press Release Student Voice Support Available Uni Mental Health Day Year Abroad Youth Select Committee