Re: Year-abroad students say universities don’t offer enough support.
In the UMHAN guidance of ‘Considering the Needs of Students with a Mental Health Condition: Resource for DSA Needs Assessors’ (September 2013) the expectations of good quality one-to-one support are provided (Section 3.5). In this section, UMHAN explain that specialist support will usually be face to face, however due to some student’s conditions they may struggle to leave their house at times and yet will benefit from some support from a Mental Health Mentor in another format. Similarly, some students will be undertaking courses that involve being away from an institution for placements, years abroad or field trips. During these times, consistent support from a mentor may enable them to manage the stressors of being away from their usual support networks and if the student is at a distance from their Higher Education Institution or abroad an assessor may consider recommending Skype (or other video calling), phone and email support.
The provision of mental health and wellbeing services varies for each University but usually includes Student Support/Welfare services staffed by mental health professionals which may include Mental Health Advisers, Disability Advisers, Mental Health Mentors, Wellbeing Advisers and Counsellors. UMHAN would encourage students with a mental health difficulty to contact their individual University’s Student Support Services prior to the placement abroad to ensure that the appropriate support is in place. Should mental health difficulties arise whilst abroad, we would advise students to contact Student Support services within their home University to enquire about appropriate support which may be available to them. In some institutions remote support, via Skype or telephone may be available.
If you are to undertake a placement as part of your studying, it may be useful to consider the work environment with your placement supervisor and university tutor as a first port of call. It is worth highlighting that if you are going abroad you should consider the environment in which you will be studying or working and formulate a health and wellbeing plan beforehand. Away from the UK, there may be differences in the mental health support available and this will depend on the location/country. There may be different laws to consider, for example medical insurance in America, and it is useful to discuss this and be aware of differences before you go.
For the Institutions that have showed their commitment to end mental health discrimination and have signed the Time to Change pledge, a next step may be to address some of the issues discussed in the article, for example holding group meetings with students to introduce the topics of mental health, wellbeing and support available whilst away from the Institution.
Consideration should be made of non face to face support for students who are on placements away from their Higher Education Institution as part of their course, including study year abroad and year in industry. For an Institution to provide effective support, a student should discuss their difficulties with the support services prior to beginning the time away from the Institution, or at their earliest opportunity if difficulties should arise whilst at a distance from the University. Be aware that there will be differences in the availability of support when away from the UK and consider this before working or studying abroad.
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