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Speeches, papers, summaries of seminars, links and references from
the very successful national conference
organised by the
Heads of University Counselling Services
Monday 9th. December 2002
HUCS is organising this conference to highlight the importance of the emotional well-being of students and the role universities can play in fostering positive mental health. At a time when the government is actively encouraging more young people to participate in higher education it is essential that we think beyond mere numbers to the quality of the experience of each individual student. This means providing adequate psychological support to enable all students to complete their courses successfully. It also means considering the impact of a university's policies and culture on all members of the institution.
For, to paraphrase 'Bright Futures', a 1999 Mental Health Foundation study of the mental health of children and young people, we believe that it is only by promoting the mental health of all students that we can create a healthy university that is able to support its vulnerable members. An educational environment that pays heed to mental health and recognises the links between intellectual, social and emotional development is likely to promote better learning and produce graduates better equipped to face the complex challenges of future life and work.
HUCS first drew attention to this issue with the 1999 publication and dissemination of 'Degrees of Disturbance: the New Agenda'. This report was well received and set the tone for much of the subsequent debate. In 2000 the CVCP (now Universities UK) published 'Guidelines on student mental health policies and procedures for higher education'.These Guidelines have encouraged a great many institutions of higher education to set up task groups to review their policies and practices. In 2001 AMOSSHE produced a guide to good practice in responding to student mental health issues.
Currently there are many new developments. Universities UK is completing one report on student suicide and working on another (on behalf of the DfES) to review student services provision. In September 2002 the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act will make it unlawful for educational institutions to discriminate against individuals on the grounds of disability including those related to mental health problems. HEFCE continues to fund special initiatives to improve provision for students with such disabilities. Many recent NHS initiatives on mental health are of relevance to students (the National Service Framework for Mental Health, the NHS Plan, policies on early intervention in the diagnosis and treatment of psychosis) The Royal College of Psychiatrists has set up a working group on student mental health which is due to report soon. Student and voluntary groups have developed their own initiatives as well as contributing to reports and activities at local and national level.
With this debate underway HUCS hopes to provide an arena where expertise, experience and ideas can be shared and we are therefore delighted to be hosting expert speakers from a range of backgrounds. We hope the conference will provide an opportunity to draw together the different strands of thinking in this area and to consider how they can be developed and taken forward in a co-ordinated way. The conference is open to everyone with an interest in student mental health and we hope to have a broad spectrum of members. Please feel welcome to join us on December 9
Eileen Smith - Chair of HUCS - June 2002
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