University Mental Health Charter Roadshow

What is the Charter?

In 2018, former Universities Minister Sam Gyimah announced the development of a new University Mental Health Charter – an initiative led by Student Minds (supported by a grant from the Universities Partnership Programme Foundation) , and in partnership with the Office for Students , Department for Education , the National Union for Students , Universities UK , and AMOSSHE . The Charter will be a voluntary award, to recognise good practice in supporting and promoting mental health and wellbeing in students, as well as the wider University community (Charter FAQs can be viewed here).

How will the Charter research be conducted?

To develop the Charter, Student Minds have organised a road trip comprised of six events across the UK between March-April 2019. The roadshow aims to bring together students and University staff at all levels/areas (e.g., academics, professional staff etc.) to facilitate the co-production of the Charter. Each event consists of a number of focus groups, in addition to a keynote speaker.

Roadshow activities

I attended the event hosted by University Arts London on 27/03/19. The focus groups and activities were well organised, and delegates were presented with plenty of opportunity reflect, share their experiences (and those of their peers/colleagues), and connect with others. Student and staff were considered within discussions, to ensure that the Charter adopts a ‘whole University’ approach. Natasha Devon  – writer and mental health activist- was the keynote speaker for the roadshow, and spoke candidly and passionately (with humour thrown in) about her work, and how this could be applied within a Higher Education context.

Results from the roadshows will be analysed, and disseminated within the wider academic/policy community (e.g., via conferences, journal articles etc.). Moreover, the Charter will be a living document – updated where relevant to ensure it is still current to the Higher Education landscape.

Next steps

There is still opportunity to participate in the roadshows, with one date remaining:

Tuesday 2nd April – Cardiff Students’ Union 

Student Minds  are interested to hear from as many students and staff as possible, to help shape the Charter. The survey is available online until the 7th April.

To follow all tweets linked to the roadshow events and more, please see #UniMentalHealthCharter

Blog post written by Dr Rachel Moss (Twitter: @DrRMoss), Research Associate on the PGR Wellbeing project at the University of Portsmouth (School of Education and Sociology).


Wellbeing Workshop – Health and Wellbeing Theme, University of Portsmouth

The University of Portsmouth’s Health and Wellbeing Theme recently hosted their first Wellbeing Workshop:

Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten attended the University of Portsmouth’s Wellbeing Workshop on Tuesday 24th April at which she presented The MICE Hub to an audience of approximately fifty University of Portsmouth staff from across faculties and chaired a breakout session around wellbeing in childhood and education.

Increasing outreach for the MICE Hub:

Dr Sims-Schouten explained the purpose of the Mental Health in Education Hub and invited all attendees to book a place for the MICE Hub’s second Mental Health Awareness Event to take place on Thursday 17th May. A plethora of research is taking place across the University linked to the MICE Hub including projects specifically linked to wellbeing in childhood and education.

Reaching an interested audience:

The MICE Hub was well received and generated interest for the breakout session which included discussions around the support of autism in higher education and how technology could be used to improve this which linked to ideas around inclusivity and assessment and how to ensure assessment is for learning rather than of learning.

Potential for future collaboration and projects:

The ideas generated during this workshop will be considered for their potential to develop in to project proposals with the aim of generating external funding linked to the health and wellbeing theme so that impactful research linking to wellbeing in childhood and education can take place. This will be facilitated by follow-up sessions to be organised by the Health and Wellbeing Theme Director, Professor Gordon Blunn.

Self-Care for Kids

Too Much Pressure

With increasing environmental challenges and pressures on children and young people today including digital devices, exam pressure, and an increasingly challenging economic climate; perhaps a move towards empowering today’s young people by helping them to help themselves, in other words, self-care, is the way forward?

Sources of Support

Several charities specialising in mental health for young people have already held campaigns this year aimed at supporting self-care approaches, including Time to Change’s Time to Talk Day campaign held on Thursday 1st February 2018 with the slogan, ‘Change Your Mind’. The charity states,

Since Time to Talk Day first launched in 2014, it has sparked millions of conversations in schools, homes, workplaces, in the media and online.

Another example is ‘University Mental Health Day’ which took place on Thursday 1st March 2018, and was run jointly by Student Minds and UMHAN, and sponsored by Unite Students who run under the slogans, “Community Starts Here,” and “We Empower You.” Unite students recently launched the Common Room, a community Hub that provides resources to support students.

Young Minds provides a wide range of resources specifically designed for children and young people, and their parents, carers, teachers and others who work with them. Their #HelloYellow campaign is run on World Mental Health Day, which this year takes place on Wednesday 10th October.

 

The State of Children’s Mental Health

Despite these efforts, recent evidence shows that children’s mental health continues to decline and that stigma (another word for discrimination) is still a predominant issue when it comes to encouraging children to talk about how they are feeling. The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report highlights some increasing concerns regarding children’s overall wellbeing and Young Minds present statistics on various aspects of young people’s mental health. Time to Change have taken a look at how widespread discrimination surrounding mental health is still prevalent, which was presented publicly in their ‘Heads Together’ campaign in conjunction with the Royal Family.

Empowering Kids to Overcome these Challenges

It is clear that the challenges of our environment are unlikely to change in our children’s lifetimes and with technology only becoming more advanced, these challenges are only likely to increase. But what if we can empower our children to take charge of how they manage these challenges and improve their mental health and wellbeing. Self-help tools including Mobile Apps, CBT, Mindfulness are a few examples. CAMHS stress the important of nutrition and exercise on their ‘Taking care of myself’ page and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has put together a Toolkit for Schools.

For the Future

Perhaps there is still scope for further improvement to what’s already available? Discussions surrounding disjointed and inadequate mental health services for children have lasted for decades. Governments and policy makers are still striving for improvements and charities continue to redouble their efforts to make the message clear. Perhaps working on awareness needs to take another step forward and include our children directly, what if we asked children and young people to be more involved. Maybe a focus on increasing accessibility and improving what’s already out there so our children can find these tools and use them effectively with or without adult support is the next step.