Supporting student mental health
Thursday, 14 May 2015
Students' mental health and the support that Higher Education institutions offer regularly make headlines in both education and national news.
In March, Oxford University reported that the number of undergraduate and postgraduate students accessing counselling services had shot up by 136 and 172 per cent respectively since 2003-04.
Similarly a recent report at Postgraduate level found that out 40 per cent of PhD students at Exeter believe that studying for a doctorate has worsened their physical and mental health.
The rise in mental health issues may reflect the students' increased expectations of themselves to achieve the very best they can, especially for undergraduates, in the context of tuition fees. It may reflect decreased stigma due to better communication and understanding that students can have access to welfare and mental health support so therefore feeling more able to ask for help.
Whatever the reasons, like all institutions, the University of Reading has a duty of pastoral care for its students, and especially those students who may be living far away from home for the first time.
During their time with us, students are likely to have a variety of experiences that may impact on their mental well-being, from settling in to studying for exams, to managing their finances and finding a job. We want to provide them with appropriate support so they can maintain their health and engage with their studies. We also signpost them to support available as and when they need it.
Support from the University counselling and wellbeing service
The University counselling and wellbeing service offers short-term confidential support free of charge for all currently registered students. The support is provided through a variety of options including one-to one sessions with a counsellor or mental health advisor. All of the counsellors and mental health advisors are experienced, qualified professionals with backgrounds in counselling, psychology and mental health social work.
The service also provides email advice and support, and self-help leaflets with advice on dealing with a range of issues including depression and managing anxiety, as well as the life tools talks programme which include training to support wellbeing and develop resilience.
This term's the University wellbeing's activities include: life tools talks on getting a good night's sleep and achieving your potential; basic tai chi for wellbeing; a mindfulness walk by the chaplaincy; weekly bread-making workshops at the chaplaincy; and advice on managing exam pressure. Some of the study advice sessions are also helpful.
Alongside these core wellbeing functions the counselling and wellbeing service trains students to act as peer supporters to provide guidance, signposting and lend a sympathetic ear to their fellow students. The counselling and wellbeing service works with colleagues across the University to provide training and support to groups such as the wardens, personal tutors and other front-line staff. The Counselling and Wellbeing Service also liaises with external agencies to provide a link between University and Primary and Secondary health care.
Support from RUSU
RUSU plays a very active role in supporting the mental wellbeing of students. It runs a professional advice service and advise in three specific areas; housing, money and academic issues.
RUSU says RELAX is one of the major campaigns run by the RUSU Welfare Officer which aims to encourage students to take effective and healthy breaks which will allow them to perform to their best academic ability.
Please encourage your students to access the support they need.