Published Friday, 14th July 2017
A report highlighting health problems faced by further and higher education students in York was accepted by York’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Wednesday 12 July, as was its recommendation that a task group led by the city’s universities and colleges is set up to address the issues found.
Recognising that students’ health needs – and mental health needs in particular - are changing, the report was commissioned by the Health and Wellbeing Board from City of York Council to help guide commissioners and service providers to meet student need.
While addressing health needs in the round, the report found that mental health has overtaken traditional issues such as sexual health, drugs and alcohol as the main area of concern among students. It suggests measures including improving preventative services and creating a greater understanding and openness around mental health to reduce stigma and so prevent delays in accessing support.
Of a survey of 1,800 students, the report found 45 per cent reported having either a diagnosed or an undiagnosed mental health condition. Students reported a large number of factors affecting their mental wellbeing, including academic pressures, finance, social relationships and physical health problems.
Additional to a number of recent measures by a number of partners in the city, the report highlights the need for more low-level mental health interventions for students, such as Student Mind’s peer mentoring scheme. It also suggests further improving signposting to services, promoting wellbeing, preparing school leavers for higher education.
The Board agreed the recommendation to form a multi-agency partnership to drive the student health agenda in York, with Higher York already agreeing to take the leadership role. Rather than setting up a wholly new body, the existing York Student Mental Health Network (YSMHN) could be re-purposed to address student health and wellbeing more broadly. This group already contains most of the key student health agencies in York.
Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for health at City of York Council, said: “Organisations across the city are committed to working together to improve the health and wellbeing of our students. As well as highlighting the challenges we face, this report has also shown that there are many local examples of good practice, such as the Building Healthy Relationships Project, drop-in wellbeing services and mental health training for frontline staff, which can be shared and developed.”
This project has been supported by a range of health partners across the city and the four Higher York institutions – the University of York, York St John University, Askham Bryan College and York College – and they will be part of the partnership to address issues highlighted in the report.
Emily Taylor, operations manager at Higher York, said: “The student health needs assessment has highlighted the impact that pressures on mental health services are having on Higher York students and our institutions’ support services, as well as on the wider local community.
“Higher York partners have invested significantly in supporting students’ health and wellbeing and welcome this opportunity to continue working with service providers and with the community and voluntary sector to strengthen collaboration across the city. We hope this report will lead to renewed investment in mental health interventions that are appropriate and accessible for students. We look forward to building on this work through our combined expertise and continued partnership.”