Campus Living Villages has joined a group of UK universities, students and charities to call on the higher education sector to increase collaboration in order to address high levels of poor mental health among students.
The call was made at a roundtable event where mental health professionals, students and accommodation staff discussed how to improve university support services.
The roundtable was held in response to global student accommodation provider Campus Living Villages’ research report – Mental Health at University: Bridging the Gap – which found that two in five students say they have poor mental health. Despite this, just over a quarter (28%) don’t know if their university provides information about stress and mental health, while almost half (48%) are unaware if their halls of residence provides this information.
Nadine Lee, University Partnerships Director at Campus Living Villages, said: “We know that universities and accommodation providers are working hard to support students struggling with poor mental health, but it’s clear from our research that messages about those services aren’t reaching all students who need them.
“This prompted us to ask ourselves what more could be done to help students access support and break through the noise.
“Bringing together students, universities, accommodation providers and charities at the roundtable led to a hugely productive discussion about how student mental health is addressed, both within the university environment and more broadly, how support could be improved. It was especially powerful and inspiring to hear from several brave students, who say they often feel their voices are not heard.”
The roundtable attendees highlighted three key steps they believe are key to addressing poor mental health among students:
Involving students more to increase the range of voices being heard. One of the key issues raised was ensuring that the right students are listened to, not just the ones with the loudest voices. Dave Wilson, of the University of Cumbria, said:: “Often when universities say they’ve listened to the voices of students, what they’ve actually done is taken comments from the Students’ Union. The Union tends to represent students with certain interests, and many of them may not have experienced the mental health issues they’re commenting on.”
Working across silos to ensure joined up approaches between universities and their accommodation providers. Geoff Pringle, of Campus Living Villages commented: “Universities and accommodation providers tend to be united on solving issues such as crime, alcohol and drugs, and responding to environmental concerns, but are not agreed on a strategy for addressing mental health among their students.”
Greater collaboration across the sector to ensure institutions learn from the experiences of others. Sally Olohan MBE added: “Universities and accommodation providers may be in competition with each other but together we need to consider some kind of alliance, an overarching group looking at a strategy to tackle poor mental health among students.”
Nadine added: “Mental health isn’t just a struggle for students; it’s a challenge for the whole of society, and therefore the solution will require all sorts of different types of expertise.
“There’s a good deal of competition among universities and accommodation providers, but we all need to work together and take advantage of the support available from charities, medical organisations and other initiatives wherever possible to ensure the right support is provided to any student who needs it.
“Following the roundtable, Campus Living Villages has committed to arranging a follow-up meeting with our partners to continue the conversation and consider new ways in which we can work together to support our residents.”
Read the full write up of the roundtable – Student Mental Health Roundtable – and check out a short video of what the attending students and professionals thought of the event – Mental Health Roundtable video.