The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO), alongside King’s College London (KCL) and three other organisations, has created a new online resource hub aimed to help universities improve their student mental health support.
The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub is a digital resource providing information and guidance for the Higher Education (HE) sector to improve support for student mental health. It will aid universities in designing and implementing interventions to better aid for students.
The Hub includes guidance on evaluating institutions’ current programmes of support, examples of current practice and a toolkit, which maps the evidence base for what works onto the University Mental Health Charter. The University Mental Health Charter, an initiative by Student Minds, “calls for universities to consciously consider their influence over [factors that influence mental health and wellbeing] and proactively create environments that promote wellbeing.”
Aside from an evidence base on psychological support approaches, the Hub also highlights a need to evaluate non-clinical strategies to improve student mental health. This might include interventions that promote changes to lifestyle, education, and self-care.
Dr Nicola Bryom, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at the College and Network Lead of SMaRteN, 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 Student Mental Health Evidence Hub was developed with help from a student panel. This panel included individuals from a range of backgrounds, courses, and HE institutions. It provided insights into how students experience support systems that are currently in place in higher education.
This initiative comes at a time when levels of poor student mental health seem to be at their highest. Analysis by the Policy Institute at KCL revealed that between 2016-17 and 2022-23, the proportion of students that reported having mental health difficulties nearly tripled, increasing from 6% to 16%.
With university dropout rates reaching a new high, appropriate and sufficient support for student mental health appears to be needed now more than ever. Dr Omar Khan, Chief Executive of TASO, stated that “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 […] provides the resources needed to start this work and I hope it will spur on more evidence-informed practice.”