More than 3,000 students signed a petition in less than 24 hours asking the university to take action and deal with the growing ‘mental health crisis’ on UEA’s campus.

The petition was created after the death of a student on campus yesterday, which marked the fourth student death at UEA in ten months.

In light of the news, student union election campaigns have been suspended.

Adam Harvey, who began the petition, said: “UEA has seen several student deaths this year, all of which have affected UEA as a community, and all of which are unacceptable.”

On Tuesday, March 12 the body of a first year student was found in his room in Britten House.

In a school-wide email to literature, drama, and creative writing (LDC) students, head of school Alison Donnell named the student as Theo Brennan Hulme, a literature and creative writing student. 

Vice-chancellor David Richardson said: “At UEA we have recognised the significant increase in demand in wellbeing and mental health services and have been planning for additional investment.

“What we can do, what we must do, what we are focused on doing is responding to give the students and staff in our community the support and assistance they need on a whole-institution basis.  As a parent myself, I know how much anxiety and worry this causes for everyone.

“At UEA we take our responsibilities very seriously. We are investing an additional half a million pounds over the next five months because we know demand is growing. We have fast-tracked additional funding into our services both for the remainder of this financial year and the budgets for future years.

“We will be immediately investing an additional £250,000 now for this year and from the start of August we will spend £1.4m in mental health and wellbeing services, a 63 percent increase in budget compared to this year.

“We will be using this money to improve access to services, recruiting specially trained wellbeing staff to offer more support and interventions to students. This includes a further Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and a Senior Wellbeing Advisor with links to local NHS services.

“The number of advisors who are on hand to offer guidance around a range of worries and challenges will also be boosted. This includes a Mental Health Advisor, Disability Advisor and two Student Life Advisors.

“Training for academic and support staff will also receive additional funding, with three extra staff trainers being recruited to offer Mental Health First Aid training and suicide prevention awareness.

“We are improving our services. We are investing more. But it’s not just about money. We will need a whole community response on these issues and I will be leading a VC Taskforce on mental health and well-being at UEA. We do need to look out for each other and support each other through this.”

Some students have suggested the 250,000 investment in services is not enough.

Rachelle Griffith said: “please stop defending yourself and admit that as an institution you have failed another student”.

Sheldon Vestey said: “How can the university afford new halls of residence, projects no doubt in the many millions whilst it fails to support the students it already has?”

Zahra Benallal Santos said: “I got a call [on March 13] from sss to give me an introductory session to asses [sic] my case to start counselling. I requested this mid/end of November. 4 months later. ”

A spokesperson from uea(su) said: “We understand the frustration of many students.

“The petition specifies long waiting times at Student Support Services (SSS) which is understandably a very topical issue for students; however, we need to be very clear that any student who requires support should contact SSS as soon as possible.

“As a Students’ Union, we stand united alongside the growing number of students calling for the university to do better.”

In a separate statement, uea(su) said they will hold an event on March 15 in the square. Uea(su) said: “From 1pm, students will be able to collect an item from the Hive, add their name to it, and bring it to the square to be with other students and show solidarity.”

You can contact SSS, by calling 01603 592761 or emailing studentsupport@uea.ac.uk. A full list of support services available can be found here.

Alternatively you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 24-hours a day or email jo@samaritans.org

View the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/david-richardson-directly-address-the-mental-health-crisis-at-uea?recruiter=658984958&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=Search%3ESAP%3EUK%3EBrand%3EPetition%3EExact&fbclid=IwAR2g-2qPWYQZGIam4Xva92Z6WvSWqObj9G_0MsuD7aZuX25n3TuL8P03NhQ

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m a PhD student, so have been here five years and whilst the university always responds by making the right noises, (this has been an issue every year) the fact is from what I’ve seen, the counselling service has always been overwhelmed. A friend who braved going to the Deans office was essentially told by a receptionist to go away unless they felt terribly suicidal because there was a three month waiting list. The NHS service usually has around a six week waiting list too. Whilst acts like reducing self-Certs to once a year, when it used to be one a term, has inevitably put a massive pressure on the campus GP service to give out certificates, evident by their massive signs in the reception reminding everyone that extension requests etc depression are not URGENT, so you’ll have to wait two or three weeks for an appointment. And whilst all the academic staff I’ve worked with have been incredibly good with this sought of stuff, they are still not therapists or councillors and it’s putting a massive pressure on them too. Not to mention, as it’s not technically their job, there will always be some who just won’t know how to deal with, or what to do in some situations, if they care at all that is, which is potentially very damaging to all those involved.

    Uni has changed. Society has changed. Students are facing massive debts, massive pressures, and increasing fears that they won’t be good enough on the job market anyway. Mix that with a heavy drinking, drug, culture, increasing rates of eating disorders, unrealistic social media expectations, money pressures, and for many, simply the first time being away from home thrown in with others sometimes equally troubled, it can be a toxic mix.

    For all that UEA is wonderful it’s doing a disservice to students and staff, current and future, to keep ignoring this issue, whilst simultaneously advertising things like: we have the most ‘cctv on campus’ making it a safe uni. I understand that uni is increasingly a business transaction, but there are plenty of university’s who I’m sure can do that transaction -probably better than us in all honestly. What has always set UEA apart was its motto to ‘do differnent’, to be a progressive community for good. Listening to its staff and students.

    When they first introduced exams in first year courses in the 60s, other second and third year students climbed the roof of congregation hall to bang and shout and ensure the exams had to be stopped. Education isn’t all about exams and ranking pressures. That’s what UEA was and should stand for, by putting student and staff welfare first.

What do you think?