New mental health support plan for Bristol students

The University of Bristol takes action to support student mental health and wellbeing following the tragic deaths of 11 students since October 2016, and the loud claims of students to improve the counselling services and the university’s support network.

Second Step’s Communications Volunteer Carlos Casas speaks to staff and students at Bristol University to find out more.

Mark Ames, the university’s Director of Student Services, said wellbeing advisors have been working with tutors across the campus for the last five months, and this September they launched an opt-in scheme where students give the university permission to contact a trusted source if they believe the student is dealing with a mental health problem. Over 94% of students have signed up.

Alongside this, the university plans to launch a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy next month which has had contributions from staff and students.

Mark Ames said: “We want to focus on early intervention, so we recognise there’s an issue before it’s too late. Because there is a high demand for these services in the student population, the situation is a challenging task”.

The Student Union Affairs Officer, Stanford, said hopes the new strategy will prove to be “bold and sector leading”.

For Stanford, the University currently has good services but the problem is “a matter of quantity”, with services becoming overcrowded in peak times, for example during freshers’ week or exam periods. He also urged the university’s authorities to take action swiftly, especially in reviewing the strategy after its launch, and in communicating clearly the ways students can access help.

Reaching out

Both agree in the importance of reaching out if a student is feeling any kind of mental discomfort. By encouraging more discussion about mental health will enable students to seek out help more readily.

Students can also use the many clubs and societies at the University to find help. “These groups can provide a home from home for students,” Stanford said.

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