In the wake of last month’s freshers’ week activities at universities throughout the country, many students are going through a time of transition as they get used to being away from home, establish new support networks and adjust to new financial and academic pressures.
This period of change can have a significant impact on students’ mental health – indeed recent research from the Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that the number of first-year students who disclose mental illness when arriving at university has risen fivefold in the past decade.
Educating both students and staff so that they can recognise when someone is experiencing a mental health issue is vital if we are to reduce the impact of mental ill health within university communities, and it is the reason why my organisation, Mental Health First Aid England, has launched a training course aimed at the higher education sector.
A recent poll of more than 1,000 students by the National Union of Students found that, although eight out of 10 students had experienced mental health issues over a year, less than half had sought support. Of this group, about three in 10 also said that they weren’t sure about where to get mental health support at their institution. For me, such statistics indicate that there is a missing link that this new MHFA course can address, because it trains participants to feel confident in supporting someone to get the help that they may need, either in the form of self-help strategies or professional mental health services.
I am therefore calling on all universities in England to take action and provide MHFA training to staff and students at every level and in all areas of their institutions. Improving our approaches to supporting the next generation’s mental health, encouraging resilience and creating mentally healthy higher education communities is undoubtedly something that will benefit our whole society – so let’s make it a priority this academic year.
To find out more about the MHFA one-day course, visit http://ow.ly/wrfp30fzc2U
Higher education lead and director of training, product development and partnerships
Mental Health First Aid England