Our Sector: What should we be looking for in Uni Mental Health strategies?

As part of work at his institution, here changeSU editor Jim Dickinson notes down his findings from a review of UK guidance, student feedback and over 30 UK, Australian and US mental health strategies. Feedback, additions and suggestions would be welcome in the comments below. 

What we ought to see in a University Mental Health Strategy



  • Understanding of context and literature
  • Consideration of current Strengths and Weaknesses of approach
  • Involvement of students and other stakeholders
  • Good practice from national organisations
  • Good practice from other Universities
  • Resourcing and resource priorities are clear
  • Planned activities with milestone tracking
  • Use of or development of clear baseline and impact metrics (ie Warwick-Edinburgh Wellbeing scale)
  • Dedicated strands built around deeper understanding (ie PGR, Health Students, International Students)
  • Assessment of suitability of services and strategy in partner institutions
  • Assessment of suitability of services and strategy in year abroad institutions
  • Key links to Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Duty.
  • There is an assessment of NHS and local VS provision, a strategy to join up with it and a plan to lobby to improve
  • Mindful of social media issues
  • Clear reporting to Council and Senate
  • Deep understanding of nature scale and distribution of student mental health issues around the student body


  • Cross University approach- not (just) about support service-or counselling / wellbeing staff; “Multi Agency” approach to prevention (SU, academic services, sport, estates, multi faith, careers (volunteering) etc)
  • Sending of clear comms signals around mental health stigma; takes action when staff do not adhere
  • Training of key staff across Uni to understand the enablers of good mental health and sources of further support and guidance
  • Systematic consideration of the impact of wider policies and procedures (including regulations) on mental health
  • Ensuring that positive M/H activity is built into Pre joining, and Orientation & Welcome
  • Training for administrators and academics, decision makers and those with regular contact with students
  • Promotion of the importance of social connectedness and physical health for all students with other students, academics, staff, and student services, resources and groups; investment in friendship and support networks
  • Specific activity focussed on the building of resilience in responding to academic and personal pressures
  • Consideration of the impact of the University estate on mental health; Focus on student-focused social spaces across campus that are welcoming, inclusive, and safe
  • Activities and projects focussed on general management of wellbeing and self care; Encouragement of and enabling of students to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and development of strategies and habits that support good mental health
  • Support for and access to activities (ie Sport) which aid good mental health
  • Related contributory strategies actively worked on (ie Sexual Harassment, Drugs and Alcohol)
  • Start at pre-arrival with key material and messaging
  • Involvement of students in the design and delivery of the strategy and activities within this area
  • Sets performance indicators and gathers and uses data to monitor and manage the impact of its strategy on student mental health

Handling of MH Issues

  • Students who experience mental health problems receive appropriate, timely support from the University
  • Students are well supported and report as such
  • Students know how to access support if they experience difficulties
  • Deep understanding of demand levels and patterns, and planned resource to match
  • Shifts to triage handled well, as are mismatches between client desires and resolved delivery
  • First aid is invested in and available across the University- F/A training for administrators and academics, decision makers and those with regular contact with students
  • Students joining the University with pre-existing conditions are supported to access local NHS support and care is joined up
  • This will include access to specialist support if required
  • May be referred to other forms of support (eg NHS) where necessary
  • All staff who work with students know how to support and to effectively refer
  • Peer strategies- Students supporting other students can access help
  • University support for student-led initiatives
  • Gathers and uses data to monitor evaluate and develop services in this area
Posted in Our sector.

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