These guidelines are designed to support staff in their contact with students who are experiencing mental health difficulties. They are intended to help staff identify, and respond appropriately, to those with mental health difficulties.
Mental health can be considered as the capacity to live in a resourceful and fulfilling manner, and having the resilience to survive pain, disappointment and sadness.
A mental health problem is one in which a person is distracted from ordinary daily living by upsetting and disturbing thoughts or feelings. The problem may disorientate a person’s view of the world and produce a variety of symptoms and behaviour which may cause stress and concern.
For the purpose of these guidelines, mental health difficulties refer to:
Further information about mental health and mental health difficulties can be found at the following:
Mental health problems are more common among students than in the general population. Research shows that one in four students will experience a mental health problem during their studies and that young people are more likely than any other age group to suffer from depression. First episodes of other serious mental health conditions also often start in young adulthood.
Times of transition are potentially stressful for students with mental health problems, or can be a trigger for the onset of a range of mental health concerns. As change is a common feature of the university experience, it is essential to handle these transitions with care, ensuring communication with students, with those who support them and ensuring adequate support.
Common “warning signs” of possible mental health difficulties include:
Often, we have a “gut feeling” that something is not quite right with a student, and this reaction is worth following. Situations may not be clear-cut but remaining calm, listening carefully, and taking student concerns seriously are all fundamental.
Students who are showing signs of mental distress do not always express difficulties directly or ask for help. If you are worried about a student, it is important to address your concerns and to do so with sensitivity particularly in relation to sexuality, race, religion, culture and disability.
The following steps may be followed:
The following sources of support are available within the University, encourage students or staff to make contact with them:
The Counselling Service:
The Counselling Service is able to help with making an assessment of the severity of a student’s situation, advising of the next step and offering general support to the School or Department (ex. 4579/4007)
The Disability Team
The Disability Team is able to help with advice and support for students with disabilities , which also includes mental health issues. They are able to guide you to the right support and where appropriate liaise with other services such as Counselling. Appointments with the Disability Team can be arranged through the Hub Advice Reception(ext. 4007) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Students should be made aware of the resources available to them. It is important to listen carefully, clarify the nature of the problem and its urgency and ascertain the type of help they are looking for. A student should then generally be encouraged to approach the support services themselves. In so doing, they indicate a commitment to seeking help and support. There may, however, be occasions when a student finds it hard to make the first move. Having obtained the student’s consent, you may choose to contact a support service directly and ask for an appointment to be arranged for the student. Please contact the Hub Reception (ex.4007) for help in arranging an appointment.
If you are unsure about where to refer a student, please contact Jackie Edwards, PA to the Director of Student Services ex 4579 who will be able to advise you.
One of the University Counsellors, Katie Keogh , leads on Mental Health Issues. Katie is able to offer support and guidance. She can be contacted by email email@example.com
Once a referral has been made to one of the support services, there may be occasions where it is appropriate for some collaboration between the academic School and the service. A case conference may sometimes be called if there is particular concern about the welfare of the student. Staff may also invite a student to meet with them from time to time to review their academic progress. This can provide the student with a sense of being cared for by the School and not simply being passed on to another part of the University.
There are likely to be occasions when you consider that a student could benefit from speaking with one of the support services but the student is not willing to do so. Clearly, students are under no obligation to accept help, but you can be left feeling stuck and frustrated. You may, however, wish to consider the following:
On rare occasions, you may consider that a student’s behaviour calls for an urgent response, particularly when a person’s feelings have become outside of their control. Crisis situations can often be prevented and contained with a pro-active approach. It is important to stay calm and ensure the safety of all involved, including yourself.
Such situations may include:
If you consider that there is imminent danger of harm either to the student or to others, call Security – ex. 4803. Security Emergency: 222. Security Emergency from an external phone: 0121 359 2922.Security Emergency from University Residences: 2222 Security staff will attend or contact Emergency Services. Such situations are rare.
Ensure privacy and respect but ensure that you are not left alone to handle the situation.
Also ensure that you have somebody to talk to and support you after the event.
Be clear about the extent of support and level of confidentiality that you can offer. If you are supporting a student with mental health difficulties, a general rule is that information about the student is not passed on to others without the student’s consent. Counselling staff are also bound by a professional code of ethics concerning confidentiality. It is thus, advisable to encourage the student to inform other relevant members of staff of their circumstances or check that they have no objections about you doing this prior to making this step.
However, information may be passed to others without the student’s consent in certain circumstances; when issues of personal safety of the staff involved, or potential harm to the student or others, become a cause for concern.
In such circumstances, information may be passed to relevant services such as the University Counselling Service or the Disability Team
Students may sometimes find themselves supporting a friend who is experiencing mental health difficulties, it is important that their needs are recognised, as well as those of the student causing concern. A student in this position may often be feeling unsure how to help, and what to do for the best. These students are advised to contact the University Counselling Service, meet with one of the counselling staff, and discuss the situation in order to obtain advice and support.
(Some of the material above is based on a document from Leeds University Counselling Service and has been used with their consent)
Katie Keogh, Counselling Service