further & higher education

Promoting and Improving Student Mental Health and Wellbeing in Higher Education

further & higher education

08:45 - 15:40

Thursday 23 May 2019

Central London


This Forum will provide attendees with the opportunity to discuss pioneering ways of supporting Higher Education (HE) students and ensuring all those that need help due to mental ill health are receiving the best possible care. Participants will engage with leading policy figures around current report recommendations on subject such as student suicides, LGBTQ+ students and the concerns facing the contemporary generation of students. In addition, best practice case studies will provide examples of innovate methods for engaging students in the national mental health discussion and creating practical, long term strategies for Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to ensure all students can access the help they need.


This Forum is specifically designed for the Higher Education Sector. Typical job titles will include:

  • Associate Deans and Principals
  • Heads of Student Experience
  • Heads of Faculty
  • Lecturers
  • Heads of Counselling Services
  • Directors and Heads of Student Services
  • Heads of Student Wellbeing
  • Heads of Support Services
  • Student Engagement Officers
  • Student Welfare Officers

This Forum is also open to the Voluntary and Health sector to encourage debate and networking.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Dr Ruth Caleb, Chair, Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group, hosted by Universities UK 
  • Emma Douthwaite, Safeguarding and Welfare Manager, Office for Students (OfS)
  • Dr Catherine Hack, Principal Adviser (Learning and Teaching), Advance HE
  • Dominic Smithies, Programmes Manager (Health Inequalities), Student Minds
View the agenda and additional speakers

According to a study by IPPR, 94% of universities saw an increase in the demand for student services between 2012 and 2017 clearly indicating that mental health is a growing issue that should be at the forefront of all universities’ agendas. The majority of mental health conditions develop before the age of 24, so university students are a high risk group which has led to the number of students dropping out due to mental health-related problems trebling.

The government has recently announced that it will be developing The University Mental Health Charter in response to the staggering increase in student suicides, which is set to go live in 2019/2020. This will highlight the goals and objectives that all UK universities should be meeting to ensure that all students are receiving the help that they need and do not ‘fall through the cracks’. Universities will be given a certificate of excellence if they meet these new healthcare standards.

According to the IPPR, fewer than one third of universities have a clear mental health and wellbeing strategy in place. With the current UK student population reaching over 2.3 million, it is vital that universities develop and implement effective strategies to help and support the wide variety of mental health issues that can present themselves during a student’s time at a HEI.

With increasing pressure from both the government and students themselves for universities to improve mental health provision, it is vital that all universities work together to create a culture of acceptance around mental ill health. Universities must learn to work in partnership with other higher education institutions and healthcare providers to share best practice and improve student services. Failure to provide adequate and compassionate student services within all HEIs could be catastrophic for the mental wellbeing of the student population.


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair’s Welcome Address

Dr Dominique Thompson, Student Mental Health Expert and Consultant, Buzz Consulting (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Exploring Innovative Methods of Encouraging Universities to Focus on Mental Wellbeing

  • Outlining the aims of the OfS Challenge Competition which was launched in 2018 and how this will encourage universities to create innovative approaches to improving the mental health of students
  • Highlighting how universities can implement a ‘step-change’ approach to mental wellbeing policies by identifying the needs of students, evaluating current policies and procedures and creating a comprehensive plan for future changes
  • Discussing how the OfS will use this competition to encourage universities to create more effective practices and focus on early intervention as well as increased student support
  • Understanding how the OfS will select institutions to be awarded funding and what will be expected of successful institutions

Emma Douthwaite, Safeguarding and Welfare Manager, Office for Students (OfS)  (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Exploring the Landscape of Student Wellbeing Across Higher Education

  • Understanding the role of universities in promoting and maintaining good mental wellbeing to ensure an excellent student experience
  • Exploring the challenges facing the current generation of students and how to ensure HEIs are providing exceptional student services by developing a whole-university approach to mental wellbeing
  • Identifying the key findings from the IPPR report: Not by Degrees, Improving Student Mental Health in the UK’s Universities including less than one third of universities having an explicit mental health strategy in place
  • Highlighting the key challenges facing universities when creating mental wellbeing policies and procedures
  • Sharing the next steps that universities should be taking to implement a robust and extensive mental wellbeing policy

Dr Ruth Caleb, Chair, Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group, hosted by Universities UK (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Effectively Preventing and Reacting to Student Suicides

  • Exploring the effectiveness of the ‘Three Minutes to Save a life’ campaign that trained staff to recognise the early signs of self-harm or suicidal behaviour
  • Understanding the context of growing suicide rates and highlighting what groups are at a higher risk of suicide
  • Coping with the growing demand for student services: Creating counselling services that are fit for purpose by ensuring at-risk students are seen quickly
  • Developing a suicide-safer strategy: setting out clear objectives for your institution and creating a multi-agency action plan for reaching these objectives and highlighting how to develop effective relationships with health services

Clare Dickens, Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, University of Wolverhampton (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Panel Discussion: Exploring the Key Issues that Impact Student Mental Health

  • Understanding how going through clearing can impact a student’s mental health and how to identify and support any associated illnesses that may be a result of this, such as anxiety and feelings of isolation
  • Highlighting the best methods for tackling the ‘silent stigma’ that surrounds mental health and how to bring this issue to the forefront of student services
  • Discussing the key issues affecting the current generation of students such as increased study costs and pressure to succeed in a highly competitive job market
  • Helping students to have the confidence to get help and ensuring support channels are marketed to create awareness

Salomé Doré, Welfare and Diversity Executive Officer, Loughborough Students Union (CONFIRMED)

Anthony Payne, Director of Student Services, University of Bath (invited)

Dave Corcoran, Head of Student Support and Wellbeing, University of Chichester (CONFIRMED)

Dr Dominique Thompson, Student Mental Health Expert and Consultant, Buzz Consulting (CONFIRMED)


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Developing a Curriculum that Supports Positive Mental Health

  • Understanding the importance of designing a curriculum that promotes good mental health and how this can help maximise student success
  • Exploring the relationship between learning and mental wellbeing, and the effect that improved mental health can have on a student’s capacity to learn
  • Outlining the possible barriers to embedding mental wellbeing into the curriculum including intensified demands on academics and institutional barriers
  • Discussing how to overcome these barriers by creating a whole-university approach to mindfulness initiatives
  • Highlighting the role that academics play in supporting students and how creating an inclusive teaching environment can help break the stigma around mental health

Dr Catherine Hack, Principal Adviser (Learning and Teaching), Advance HE (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Supporting the Mental Health and Wellbeing of LGBTQ+ Students

  • Understanding the key findings from the Student Minds report, LGBTQ+ Student Mental Health: the challenges and needs of gender, sexual and romantic minorities in Higher Education including the need for more inclusive services and communities
  • Exploring the key issues that the LGBTQ+ community face in relation to mental ill health
  • Analysing how universities can best prepare to support these students by improving inclusivity and ensuring representation from the LGBTQ+ community
  • Discussing the recommendations from this report including developing partnerships between universities and the NHS and how to go about creating them
  • Sharing guidance on how universities can ensure they are creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students and understand what services are required through student consultations

Dominic Smithies, Programmes Manager (Health Inequalities), Student Minds (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Empowering Academics to Support Student Wellbeing

  • Exploring the role that academics play in identifying potential mental health and wellbeing issues
  • Discussing the importance of knowing what support services the HE institution offers so academics can correctly advise students
  • Understanding how encouraging academics to be approachable to students and ensuring they feel welcomed allows students to be more comfortable disclosing any problems they are experiencing
  • Highlighting key signs to look out for to ensure early intervention and how to make academic staff aware of these

Christopher Warrington, Head of Student Support, University of Leeds and Executive Member, AMOSSHE (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Delivering Outstanding Student Support Services

  • Exploring how the University of Reading has used innovative support methods to provide student services, such as the ‘Big White Wall’ scheme that allows students to access support anonymously
  • Highlighting the importance of creating student support services with multiple communication channels to ensure all students are able to access support quickly and efficiently, such as face-to-face support or workshops
  • Discussing how the University of Reading and Reading University Students Union (RUSU) implemented the #NeverOK campaign with the aim of reducing bullying and discrimination and encouraging students to come forward if they have been harassed
  • Sharing guidance on how the University of Reading was able to implement extensive student services and the challenges they overcame to do so, ensuring that this was a priority for the university

Selina Patankar- Owens, Head of Student Wellbeing Services, University of Reading (CONFIRMED)


Closing Keynote: Developing a Digital Approach to Supporting Student Mental Health

  • Highlighting the aims of AMOSSHE Insight: Digital Tools to Support Students’ Mental Health scheme and the applications this has to help staff support students
  • Discussing the key findings from this scheme including the effects of using the correct terminology when talking about mental ill-health and avoiding terms such as disorder and disability, and how using the correct language can help students to talk openly about their wellbeing
  • Understanding the recommendations put forward as a result of this scheme including staff professional development and undertaking mental health first aid training and how universities can provide these
  • Sharing guidance on the next steps in supporting online learners including recognising the warning signs of mental ill health without physical interaction and how other HEIs can apply this to their institution

Jayne Aldridge, Chair, Association for Managers of Student Services in UK Higher Education (AMOSSHE) (invited)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*programme subject to change

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