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Salford and Manchester take UK lead in student mental health

Wednesday 10 October 2018

GREATER Manchester will be the first place in the country to establish a dedicated centre to support students with mental health needs thanks to a new partnership between the region’s four universities and the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The new service will offer innovative and accessible treatment, such as virtual clinics, to university students experiencing mental illness, for example eating disorders and severe depression.

University bosses say they hope the idea – launched on World Mental Health Day – can be adopted across the UK.

Greater Manchester has one of the largest student populations in the country. The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Bolton and the University of Salford’s student body represents around 100,000 people.

Tough time

One in five 16-24 year olds experience depression or anxiety and the transition to university can be a tough time, with many young people living away from home, family and friends for the first time.

The new service will make it much easier for students across the city to get referred, and students will also be able to keep the same GP throughout their student career with the roll-out of a Greater Manchester university-student GP passport.

Under the new system, wherever a student presents to the mental health system (NHS, third sector or at university), they would receive a standard assessment. They could then proceed either to university services, or for more specialist intervention at a new centre.

Exam stress

As services will focus specifically on students, planning will be able to take into account important demand factors such as exam times but the experience of the centre will also benefit staff. This integrated approach will also help to co-ordinate the four universities’ efforts to promote well-being and prevention, and share examples of successful practice.

The new centre will open in the academic year 2019-20. The plans were developed alongside the core partners and with the help of charities and students’ unions. It will be jointly funded by all the partners.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who runs the devolved health and social care plan, also announced the plans today and confirmed that the city would be the first place to collate waiting times for child and young people's mental health.

What they said: 

Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, said: “We should never underestimate the welfare needs of our students, so we are delighted to invest in a more comprehensive service to support them.

“We don’t just want our people to be well-educated; we want them to be well.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “Mental health is one of the top issues that students tell us about and we have invested significantly in services at The University Manchester and in this important new initiative.

“The next logical step is to share expertise and resources across the whole region, and create a model that will benefit thousands of people. I am very pleased that The University of Manchester will play an important role in this and I hope that it is an idea that can be used across the whole country.”

Dr Sandeep Ranote, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and children’s mental health lead for Greater Manchester said: “Prioritising student mental health is vital to ensuring that young people and those going back to study later in life get the very best out of university and thrive during their student careers.

“It’s time to treat mental health with the same importance as physical health. Good emotional health is the foundation for future well-being. Developing a dedicated mental health service that provides support from “prevention to prescription” enables us to create the campuses of tomorrow.”

Professor George Holmes, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, said that the mental health of students was of paramount importance.

Prof Holmes said: "In Bolton we have excellent support mechanisms already in place, as the welfare of our students is our number one priority.

"It is excellent news that Greater Manchester is at the forefront of addressing the issue of students' mental wellbeing and the University of Bolton is proud to be playing a significant part in the initiative."

Professor Malcolm Press, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Students are at the heart of everything we do at Manchester Metropolitan and ensuring their health and wellbeing is a priority. This new centre will play a vital role in addressing the growing issues of mental health problems among young people.

“I am delighted Manchester Metropolitan can be an important member of this partnership - and believe it will provide a model for others to follow.”