MENTAL HEALTH - University support.

(19 Posts)
Shimy Tue 16-Jun-20 19:56:47

As lockdown has given us loads of time to discuss university ad infinitum, I have started to think a lot about this. How does one find out about university track records for MH support? I’ve seen anecdotal info over the yrs about various universities but is there a report or something out there on this subject? And yes, we are going to visit universities and ask questions in person but would really like to start to get a feel now. Also are there any that should be totally avoided? It’s still early days as DS is only in YR11 but prefer to start the ground work in time to know where to steer or not, as you would.

OP’s posts: |
SirTobyBelch Tue 16-Jun-20 22:47:30

Look on the universities' web sites for details of mental health support services offered by the university and/or the students' union. Use open days, etc., to find out how many staff they have and how many students use the service, usual waiting times, availability of out-of-hours support and so on.

Gwynfluff Tue 16-Jun-20 23:01:54

Most university disability services worth their salt will answer questions from potential applicants, so you can make contact now. You can also check if they have an in house counselling service (many unis outsourced this over the last ten years as funding cuts hit) and having an integrated uni health service can be useful if you anticipate ongoing significant fluctuations that will impact on study. However, many university services, like the NHS itself, have long waiting lists for mental health support.

Also worth checking the support offered to first years in halls and the halls set up. Want your child to have access to resident mentors who check in and escalate concerns.

Declare the mental health condition as a disability on UCAS - again good disability services will then contact the student before starting if they are an offer holder. Your child will be eligible for reasonable adjustments and even DSA to pay for additional support.

Finally, many institutions for many reasons, have not adopted the model of taking a named contact to let families know if their child experiences deterioration or stops engaging with studies. Your child will go to them as an 18 year old and will be treated as a competent adult for safeguarding purposes.

Encourage your child to start to make their own decisions about their health and to start to feel confident getting support in place and asking for help when needed. Crucially they need to think about getting appropriate support in place - whether it is a personal tutor, a mentor or a healthcare professional as opposed to support that just comes from friends.

Hope some of that helps and is a start.

Shimy Wed 17-Jun-20 13:01:57

@SirTobyBelch Those are questions to ask, thank you. Taken note.

@Gwynfluff Great information, especially about preparing your dc to manage their own health prior to going because that’s exactly what we’ve doing. Sometimes it’s difficult with MH in that the sufferer may not realise how bad they are in order to ask for help.

I hope other parents with dc with MH issues at university might come on to share their experiences. Also I’d still like to know whether there are any u universities out there to just point blank avoid.

OP’s posts: |
k1233 Wed 17-Jun-20 13:09:28

I'm in a different country but a couple of the areas I've previously looked after are Equity and Student Counseling. My experience is unis care a lot and try to assist and support as much as possible.

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monkeyonthetable Wed 17-Jun-20 13:27:18

One of my DC will need help with this. I looke don their websites. The ones I suspect of being rubbish are the ones that have a generic script e.g. 'We provide support for students experiencing MH issues and have an on-site counsellor available.' Good ones tend to be really specific and say: 'Our counselling service is open from 8 am-8pm. In addition we have a buddying system in first year, group therapy sessions for students with social anxiety etc etc.' You can tell who has actually thought about it properly and who is paying lip service to it.
Also, I think this is where TSR comes into its own. Students giving their own accounts of the practical support available will be rfeally informative.

Shimy Wed 17-Jun-20 13:36:26

@Monkey great tip! As with most things the devil is in the detail. It’s a bit of a minefield and most universities are just waking up to the fact they can’t just bury their heads in the sand any longer it need to develop MH policies and processes to support students.

OP’s posts: |
Gwynfluff Wed 17-Jun-20 15:09:55

Tips for managing MH at uni:

1. Take all the support available
2. Set it up even if you feel great - much harder to sort it out if you have a dip
3. If you have a condition with significant deterioration - think about writing out a crisis plan to think about your trigger points and what you might need to do to seek help but importantly who from - who do you need to contact?
3. Be open - you need a good personal tutor. If you get one who you have no rapport with - ask for another one
4. Everything your mum ever told you about sleep, diet, taking breaks, eating vegetables is correct! But unfortunately teens don’t always like to hear this.
5. Remember many new friends will be other young people - they can feel quickly overwhelmed and worried if you are very unwell and only rely on them.

Have experience of this in HE and as a parent

And will gently mention again, that if you are used to school contacting you and joint meetings - this is very unlikely to be how it is managed in HE and you may feel very out of the loop

monkeyonthetable Thu 18-Jun-20 21:35:03

@Gwynfluff - Brilliant post. I've been saying your tips 1,2,4 &5 to DS all the time. Will add the middle two now as well.

Gwynfluff Thu 18-Jun-20 21:41:41

Thank you - my badly numbered ones grin

bibliomania Sun 21-Jun-20 11:22:04

Encourage your DC to make use of the provision. In my work, I come across a lot of students who claim they weren't supported, when they never used what was there. I appreciate that some conditions impact on help-seeking, but being passive about it won't help.

CatandtheFiddle Sun 21-Jun-20 13:38:15

Everything your mum ever told you about sleep, diet, taking breaks, eating vegetables is correct! But unfortunately teens don’t always like to hear this.

Ha ha ha! As a Personal Tutor, this advice is always my first port of call. I triage my students about sleep, eating fresh vegetables and enough protein, and drinking water, not alcohol. And I recommend they should do exercise every day.

It’s surprising how just getting them to think about those self-care basics can be a challenge!

The problem, from a university point of view, is that we are not the NHS. And academic tutors are generally professionally well-intentioned, but it’s not our job to provide counselling. We are also subject sometimes to unfounded abuse because we don’t spoon feed students about seeking help. We point them to it, and I’ve often made phone calls on the spot on students’ behalf but ultimately, students need to be prepared to be proactive about their mental and physical health.

So the advice about preparing your DC for greater autonomy and responsibility is excellent. Really take it on board and see if your DC can as well. I know that when I’ve had tutees with health difficulties, the ones who are prepared to be responsible and open will get through.

salsa899 Sun 21-Jun-20 17:16:58

my daughter dropped out of Bristol because of an utterly woeful lack of mental health support. Thankfully she started over at a Uni which has much better support with mental health. I'd avoid Bristol to be honest. They said they'd learn from their high suicide stats, but they haven't (in our experience)

CatandtheFiddle Sun 21-Jun-20 18:58:10

Bristol don’t actually have suicide rates higher than other universities. Any student suicide is awful, but it doesn’t help to sensationalise them.

Many young people go to university with pre-existing conditions and sometimes I think that they need a bit of recovery time after the grind and treadmill of secondary education.

A gap year can be a very good thing for the well-being of students with fragile mental or physical health to rest and recover and help prepare for managing their own health as adults in a university setting.

salsa899 Sun 21-Jun-20 20:05:20

actually there have been no national surveys on student suicides and the percentages per institution. I've seen numerous news articles about this University. I'm aware this happens elsewhere, but 13 suicides in one University, in a few years is very very high. I do know, having spoken to other parents about my daughter's experience, it wasn't unique to us. The pastoral support was totally inadequate. They were even talking about scrapping hall wardens after about 8 suicides had occurred. Where my daughter is now, not only do they have wardens, but they play an integral and proactive role in helping students transition and cope with home sickness etc. Bristol Uni had to bring in a 'suicide prevention scheme' to tackle the problems they had. When I spoke to the Uni about my daughter's problems, (with her permission, we signed disclaimer so I could speak with them) they were extremely disinterested, didn't return calls and showed a real apathy towards us. I only read positive stories about the place before my daughter went there and I'd have appreciated the alternative point of view, for balance.

salsa899 Sun 21-Jun-20 20:18:19

and I appreciate that they've probably worked on their mental health provision since then, but I'd advise anyone with a student going to any University to ask specific questions about mental health/pastoral support and if the answers are evasive or not forthcoming, alarm bells should be ringing.

Gwynfluff Sun 21-Jun-20 21:58:42

Yes, Bristol have spent around a million puns over the last 2 years improving their mental health provision. Struck me that before this revamp they had a very traditional system in place and hadn’t adapted to the more modern pastoral approach. Sounded a bit like what was in offer when I went to uni 25 years ago.

Glad your daughter has had a more positive experience second time round.

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