University joins new Mental Health Charter Programme

Wed 28 July, 2021
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The University of Bedfordshire is one of 32 universities across the UK to have joined a new University Mental Health Charter Programme, designed to improve support for student and staff mental health in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Student MindsThe Charter Programme, spear-headed by Student Minds – the UK’s student mental health charity – brings together universities which are committed to making mental health and wellbeing a university-wide priority to share practice and create cultural change.

By joining the University Mental Health Charter Programme, universities have committed to working towards a set of evidence-informed principles of good practice. These include a commitment to work with staff and students to provide effective and adequately resourced support services, and the determination to create an environment and culture that reduces poor mental health and promotes good mental health for the whole university community.

Bedfordshire hopes its membership of this programme will help lead the way in demonstrating the University’s commitment to mental health.

Professor Rebecca Bunting, Vice Chancellor, said: “The University of Bedfordshire feels privileged to join the University Mental Health Charter Programme and work with Student Minds. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to highlight our established commitment towards the promotion of positive mental health of both our students and staff.

“We look forward to sharing good practice and learning from the sector, as well as exploring through the themes of the Charter the areas which may require further development to enhance our mental wellbeing provision, and ensure we continue to embed a whole-university approach to the mental health and wellbeing of our community.”

The Charter Programme was developed in consultation with UK-wide staff and students, with combined funding from the UPP Foundation, Office for Students, Jisc and the Charlie Watkins Foundation. The Charter Programme was initially piloted in 2020 across the Universities of Derby, Hartpury and Glasgow Caledonian before being rolled out to wider UK universities this year.

Student Minds has announced that prior to the disruption and impact of Covid-19, the prevalence and complexity of mental health difficulties in students was on the rise. The number of students declaring a pre–existing mental illness to their university has more than doubled since 2014/15, with staff also reporting that they are responding to increasing numbers of students experiencing suicidal ideation, self–harm and episodes of psychosis.

Rosie Tressler OBE, CEO of Student Minds, said: “Even before the pandemic, universities were facing increasing reports of poor student and staff mental health. The last year has highlighted even more the need for a renewed focus and investment in the mental health and wellbeing of our university communities. Now is the time for the universities to come together as part of a collaborative effort to enact long-term, strategic change. We are inspired by the number of universities that have committed to coming together as part of the University Mental Health Charter Programme to ensure improved and more equal mental health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole university community. Creating a higher standard of mental health support across the whole higher education sector. Together, we can create a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive."

Statistics unveiled by Student Minds show that during the pandemic, students and young people were more likely than the general population to feel anxious and worried, unable to cope and experience self-harm, and 58% of students have said their mental health is worse than when the pandemic started. University staff have also reported increased workload and burn-out in response to the pandemic.

Michelle Donelan, Universities Minister, added: “The past year and a half has been an unprecedently difficult time for students and staff, and I am personally committed to ensuring they receive the consistent, effective mental health support they deserve. This is why I strongly support the University Mental Health Charter, which aims to drive up standards in promoting student and staff mental health and wellbeing on campuses across the country. I thank all those providers who have already signed up to the Charter Programme. I hope all universities will work towards the principles of good practice set out in the Charter, as part of their whole university approach to mental health and that all universities will apply for the Programme in the coming years.”

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation with the Office for Students, added: “Students have faced an extraordinarily difficult time and it is important that universities have plans, programmes and procedures to effectively support and promote good mental health. It is good to see such strong interest from universities in the University Mental Health Charter Programme, and a continued collaborative approach to responding to these challenges. Sharing good practice and taking a cross-university approach to bring about cultural change are important factors in helping to support the mental health of students.”

Universities on the Charter Programme form part of a UK-wide practice sharing network with access to events and opportunities to come together to improve their approach to student and staff mental health. Programme members can also work towards the Charter Award, an accreditation scheme which recognises universities that demonstrate excellent practice. For more information about the University Mental Health Charter, visit: https://universitymentalhealthcharter.org.uk

To find out about mental health advice and other support services available for students at the University of Bedfordshire, visit: www.beds.ac.uk/student-support

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