The National Mental Health Crisis - What are we doing about it?

By Benjamin Leatham

Mental Health within the student population has established itself as a national issue. Recently published figures show that the number of students accessing counselling services at Russell Group Universities has jumped by 28% over three years. This problem is heavily exasperated in York as a result of the chronically underfunded services in the city. 

So what are we doing?


Mental Health Task Group:

In response to the national picture Koen Lamberts, the Vice Chancellor, commissioned a task group to look at what the University should be doing to address the issue in York. It is led by Hillary Graham, an experienced academic, and I sit on it. A report is being produced by the group that outlines a number of definitive actions that the University should be taking. This will establish a clear plan of action going forward, where investment is needed etc...


NUS Motion:

Scott Dawson (Wellbeing & Community Officer) has written and submitted a motion to the NUS National Conference on the topic of student mental health called ‘Tackling the Crisis of Mental Health on Campuses’. If passed it will mandate the NUS to take the topic seriously and act! Check it out here:


Social Media Conduct:

There is evidence to suggest that negative conduct on social media can have an impact of mental health. Last week I attended an NUS conference on social media bullying and harassment. There were some really positive suggestions of actions that we can take. I will be writing a blog about some of them later this week.


Interviewing Open Door Practitioners:

Scott has been involved in interviews for two additional Open Door practitioners. He pushed for a Mandarin speaker so that more international students are catered for on campus.


Mental Health SU Summit:

I have organised a meeting of all the Students’ Unions in York (YSJ, Askham Bryon and the GSA) on the topic of mental health. The purpose is to establish what collective action we can take to tackle the issue, how we can lobby the Council etc…


Unity Health Funding

Working with Unity Health, we pushed for the NHS to confirm funding for a new surgery on Heslington East. This new surgery will have 8 more consultancy rooms than the campus and Hull Road surgery put together! We have already had strong conversations with Unity Health to focus these extra services around sexual and mental health providers, such as YorSexualHealth and IAPT.


YUSU Advice and Support:

As well as helping students with academic appeals and welfare concerns, YUSU’s Advice and Support Centre (ASC) run regular wellbeing sessions. Although these don’t tackle mental health specifically, they help students deal with the stresses and strains of University life. Sessions have included bread making, pizza making, DOUGHNUT making. All the fun.


Other Developments:

  • The University has started working with Qwell, an organisations that offer confidential 1 to 1 counselling sessions. Anyone from the Uni can sign up
  • A charity called YoungMinds has launched a new guide to mental health at University called 'Coping on Campus’.

Any questions or suggestions of what else we could be doing please just get in touch.