Ac­tion, not re­ports, needed to tackle stu­dent men­tal health

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

The Uni­ver­si­ties UK re­port Mind­ing Our Fu­ture high­lights what those of us who work with stu­dents have known for many years (Call for ur­gent ac­tion to im­prove men­tal health ser­vices for stu­dents, 11 May). Men­tal health ser­vices are not in­te­grated, and they do not al­ways fol­low the per­son if he or she re­lo­cates, as­sum­ing that ser­vices are avail­able for younger peo­ple and that they are able to ac­cess them.

Gov­ern­ments of all po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion ex­press their com­mit­ment to re­form, and their deep re­gret and sor­row when life is lost, or se­ri­ous harm oc­curs.

Such ex­pres­sions are of lit­tle if any com­fort to those in need of sup­port and ser­vices. Nor do they pro­vide any strength to fam­i­lies and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we de­cide that sup­port for vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple was not a pri­or­ity? When did we de­cide that the pol­i­tics of aus­ter­ity and out­sourc­ing were more im­por­tant than their lives and well­be­ing?

Please, no more re­ports telling us what we al­ready know. As the fifth strong­est econ­omy in the world, the pro­vi­sion of well-funded, in­te­grated and per­son­alised men­tal health sup­port ser­vices for all gen­er­a­tions is achiev­able. Un­til we com­mit to such a pol­icy, we will con­tinue to read tragic sto­ries of sui­cide and self-harm. Pro­fes­sor John Wil­liams

Aberys­t­wyth Uni­ver­sity

• Your re­port rightly draws at­ten­tion to the enor­mous prob­lem of pro­vid­ing ap­pro­pri­ate sup­port to stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enc­ing pe­ri­ods of men­tal dis­tress. I ask my­self: “What hap­pened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of uni­ver­sity coun­selling ser­vices pro­duced the re­port De­grees of Dis­tur­bance: the new agenda; the im­pact of in­creas­ing lev­els of psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tur­bance among stu­dents in higher ed­u­ca­tion, which was taken very se­ri­ously by the Com­mit­tee of Vice-chan­cel­lors and Prin­ci­pals (now Uni­ver­si­ties UK).

The re­port ad­dressed the very same is­sues as Mind­ing Our Fu­ture. Many in­sti­tu­tions took this se­ri­ously. They in­tro­duced men­tal health aware­ness train­ing for staff at all lev­els and rec­om­mended ur­gent ex­pan­sion of coun­selling and sup­port ser­vices. Last week’s re­port makes de­press­ing read­ing. Things seemed to be im­prov­ing at the be­gin­ning of the cen­tury. The de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in stu­dent sup­port ser­vices must re­flect the mas­sive change in so­cial pri­or­i­ties that has oc­curred, along­side huge fi­nan­cial aus­ter­ity pres­sures on ed­u­ca­tion, health and so­cial ser­vices, un­der the Tory gov­ern­ments since 2010. There is an ur­gent need to halt the dam­age. Chris Youle


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