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Mental Health Guidelines

Introduction

These guidelines are designed to support staff in their contact with students, or other staff, 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.

For the purpose of these guidelines, mental health difficulties refer to:

  •  long term mental health issues/psychiatric conditions which  may be classified as a disability

  •  emerging mental health problems which may arise during a student’s time at University and require intervention and support

  •  temporary mental health problems which interfere with a student’s capacity to  fulfil their academic potential

Further information about mental health and mental health difficulties can be found at the following:

www.mentalhealth.org.uk
www.mind.org.uk
www.studentdepression.org

Common “warning signs” of possible mental health difficulties include:

  • erratic, unpredictable, bizarre  behaviour

  • loud, agitated, aggressive behaviour

  • becoming withdrawn or unusually quiet

  • persistent absence from  lectures and failure to  produce course work

  • erratic sleep patterns over a significant period of time

  • unkempt personal appearance, significant change in weight, decline in personal  hygiene

Often, we have a “gut feeling” that something is not quite right with a student, and this reaction is worth following.

If you are worried about a student, the following steps may be followed:

  • Talk with the student, explaining that you have concerns about their welfare.  Expressing your concern may be reassuring in itself for the student.

  • if,  having spoken  with  the student,  you remain  concerned about them, you may inform  the student about the central University services that  are available

  • if your worries remain, you can  speak with staff from the University Counselling Service ex 4007,  the Disability Team ex 5015, the Chaplaincy , ex 4275 or Fiona Troughton, Critical  Incident Co -ordinator ex 4729

The following sources of support are available within the University:

University 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. 4007)

The Disability Team  

The Disability Team is able to help with advice and support for students with disabilities (which can include MH issues). We are able to guide you to the right support and where appropriate liaise with other services such as Counselling. Appointment s with the Disability Team staff can be arranged by phone 0121 204 5015 or by email: disabilityteam@aston.ac.uk   

Making a referral

A student should 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 ring The Hub Advice Zone (ex 4007) and the staff will help in arranging an appointment.

If you are unsure about where to refer a student, please contact Fiona Troughton, Critical Incident Co- ordinator (ex 4729) who will be able to advise you.

One of the University Counsellors, Karin Qureshi, is taking a lead on Mental Health issues. Karin is able to offer support and guidance. She can be contacted by email counselling@aston.ac.uk

After the referral

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:

  • record your concerns in an  appropriate student file, noting what  action you have taken,  e.g. recommending that the student approach the University Counselling Service/ the Disability Team

  • inform  senior staff in the school of your concerns

  • contact Counselling Service and/or the Disability Team (ex 5015) for advice. There is no need to disclose the name of the student at this point

On rare occasions, you may consider that a student’s behaviour calls for an urgent response. Such situations may include:

  • current suicidal plans and an expressed intention to  act on them

  • imminent risk  of harm to self or others

  • psychotic episodes ( i.e., when  a student lacks any insight into  their behaviour)

If you consider that there is imminent danger of harm either to the student or to others, call Security:  ex 4803. 

Security Emergency: ex 222.

Security Emergency from an external phone: 0121 359 2922.

Security Emergency from University Residences: ex 2222

Security staff will attend or contact Emergency Services. Such situations are rare.

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.  It is advisable to encourage the student to inform other relevant members of staff of their circumstances.

However, information may be passed to others without the student’s consent 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, ex 4007.

Students may sometimes find themselves supporting a friend who is experiencing mental health difficulties. 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) January 2012
Last checked SK 30.01.2014

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