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19 October 2023

New online resource for universities to support student mental health

Universities across the UK can today access a new online resource - developed by researchers from King's College London - to support the rising number of students reporting mental health difficulties, following recent calls from the government to prioritise support in this area.

Students

The new Student Mental Health Evidence Hub – developed by TASO and a consortium of expert partners, including researchers from King’s College London – is an open access digital resource which provides information and guidance for the higher education sector to improve support for student mental health.

The Hub – developed with the support of a dedicated student panel – will assist universities to design and implement interventions to support student mental health. It includes guidance on evaluating existing programmes of support, examples of current practice, and a first-of-its-kind toolkit outlining the evidence base on what works and mapping it to the University Mental Health Charter.

The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub reveals:

  • A need for more rigorous evaluation of existing programmes of support for student mental health in UK higher education, as there is currently a lack of evidence on what works in this context.
  • A strong evidence base on psychological support approaches – such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness - but a need to evaluate non-clinical strategies to improve student mental health, such as interventions designed to promote behavioural or lifestyle changes, education, and self-care.

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said, “All students deserve high-quality, evidence-based mental health support, no matter where they choose to study. So it is great that TASO has responded to government calls to prioritise support in this area with a new online Hub which will provide universities with the resources they need to improve their existing programmes.

“This aligns with our three pillared approach to supporting mental health – funding vital services, spreading best practice, and setting clear responsibilities for providers.

“This is about championing social justice and giving students from all backgrounds the tools they need to make the most of their university experience, knowing that a safety net is in place should they need it.”

Professor Juliet Foster, Dean of Education at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London said, “Over the past few years, universities have increasingly embraced the need for a ‘whole university’ approach to student mental health, which considers not only the support that individuals might need from specific services, but also other initiatives within teaching and learning, and within the wider physical and social environment. Giving universities guidance on which of these initiatives might be appropriate in their particular context is a vital step in improving student mental health and wellbeing across the sector.”

Dr Nicola Byrom, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London said, “Universities across the country have recognised and responded to the growing need to support student mental health. The Hub will help institutions to provide that support, ensuring that students have access to evidence-based interventions. Our work here also highlights real knowledge gaps, and should help direct future research.”

The project has been managed by a consortium of five expert partner organisations to ensure the Hub’s value to the sector: AMOSSHE, SMaRteN (led by King’s College London), Student Minds, and What Works Wellbeing, with TASO as the lead partner.

The Student Panel included students from various backgrounds, courses and higher education providers, all with an interest in promoting student mental health. The panel provided insights into how students experience current support systems in higher education.

The project was funded by the Office for Students to highlight and bring together existing evidence of effective interventions to support student mental health in higher education.

Reported mental health difficulties among university students have almost tripled in recent years, according to a recent analysis by The Policy Institute at King’s College London and TASO.

Dr Omar Khan, Chief Executive, TASO (Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education) said, “The recent rise in the number of students reporting mental health difficulties is staggering. We know that some student groups are more likely to report a mental health condition, such as students previously on free school meals. A lack of adequate support for student mental health can exacerbate and entrench existing inequalities.

“Students deserve to receive tried and tested support that we know will make a difference to their mental health and wellbeing. The new Student Mental Health Evidence Hub launched today provides the resources needed to start this work and I hope it will spur on more evidence-informed practice.”

The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub can be found here.

For more information, please contact Patrick O’Brien (Media Manager)

In this story

Juliet Foster New

Dean of Education

Nicola-byrom

Senior Lecturer in Psychology

headshot_RUpsher

Lecturer in Psychology (Education)