Higher Education Minister visits on University Mental Health Day

Chris Skidmore, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, is at the University of Leeds today to learn more about mental health support for students.

Higher Education Minister visits Leeds on University Mental Health Day. March 2019

The visit coincides with a Government announcement to create a student mental health taskforce to help people successfully manage the new challenges that going to university presents. 

Working in partnership

The University of Leeds and Leeds University Union (LUU) work closely together to support students, through policy initiatives, services and activities, and today provides an opportunity for the Minister to discover more about this partnership working.  

He is meeting students and staff, including the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, and LUU Welfare Officer, Matt Port.

He is also meeting representatives Student Minds, the UK’s national student mental health charity, who have recently relocated from Oxford to Leeds.

Christopher Warrington, Head of Student Support at Leeds, said: “The welfare of our students is critically important to us. 

“In order to help people to succeed at university and to become independent, critical thinkers who make a difference to the world around them, we provide a support network for the whole student journey – from Freshers’ Week to Graduation Fortnight and beyond, through our alumni programmes.

“Importantly, we work with other experts and service providers in the city, including the student medical practice, relevant charities and Leeds City Council, to give students the scope of support that they need.

“Support is also embedded across our services – running through Faculties and Schools, through central support, such as the Student Counselling and Wellbeing Service, and additional support provided by Big White Wall.

“Like every university, we know there is always more to do to improve the wellbeing of our students but we will continue to work in partnership to support students and to consistently enhance our provision.”

University Mental Health Day on campus

The Minister is visiting the Student Union building where student help and support staff have provided five 'Ways to Wellbeing' stations around the foyer.

The themes of the stations are based around an NHS initiative that suggests five focuses: connect, be active, take notice, learn and give.

Included will be a reminder of the extensive health and wellbeing services available to students through the University and the Students’ Union, as well as related student societies. 

A local and national approach

Leeds has close connections with key city, regional and national projects and initiatives that focus on student mental health: 

• our Head of Student Support has been invited to be a part of the taskforce discussions announced today by Education Secretary, Damian Hinds

• the Head of Student Counselling and Wellbeing is part of a group setting the five-year strategy for mental health in the city in order to put forward the needs of students; and

• Leeds is the current Chair of the Leeds Student Health and Wellbeing Partnership, which brings together higher education institutions, NHS bodies and charities to focus on student matters and provide a city-wide approach

Enhancing support 

Working with students, and in response to feedback and demand, Leeds has diversified its core support during the past four years to ensure that students can access help whenever they need it.

This includes investment in Big White Wall, a 24/7 online peer and professional support portal that provides a safe space online to talk and learn how to improve and self-manage mental health and wellbeing.  

In line with current specialist advice, we also offer groupwork sessions and workshops.

A new partnership 

Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, has chosen to relocate from Oxford to Leeds. 

In the first collaboration of its kind, Student Minds will partner with LUU and build on work with the Leeds on local and national initiatives to make a step change in the way wellbeing and mental health in universities are co-produced and shaped. 

The charity has visited hundreds of universities, students’ unions and other organisations during the past decade, and as it embarks on major strategic change programmes, including developing the University Mental Health Charter, it sees many benefits of being a part of the city.

Rosie Tessler, CEO of Student Minds, said: “This is a great time for us to be joining a vibrant, diverse and fun city like Leeds and to work with the fantastic partnership that exists between the University and Leeds University Union.

“The University hosts NHS and Whitehall functions and a thriving charity sector, and we will have forward-thinking universities and students’ unions on our doorstep and down the train tracks. 

“On University Mental Health Day, and all year round, we need to ensure student mental health is a strategic priority at our universities and for health providers.”

New initiative

The University-wide approach to student support is evident through a new initiative called Residence Life – part of our Accommodation Services – which encourages students to create a community within their halls of residence, enabling them to make the most of their University experience. 

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