Following widespread debate about the Antony Gormley statues, the university have confirmed that they “take these concerns seriously” and will continue reviewing student mental health services.
A UEA spokesperson said they are “continuing to reform the Student Support Services (SSS) to improve students’ access to wellbeing support.”
The Student Experience Committee (SEC) will consult on a draft of a new “UEA Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy for Students” on May 3rd. The university did not wish to disclose what policies the draft will contain before it is viewed by the committee.
UEA SU’s full-time officers said in a public statement: “This isn’t a debate about ‘banning’ the statues, nor is it a crude debate about whether art could ‘cause’ suicide – it’s a debate about the timing and location of statues by a University that is failing on mental health.”
They said the university “still has no mental health strategy in place” and that there is an “urgent” need for change.
When asked by Concrete what they view as an adequate mental health strategy, an SU spokesperson said this would be a plan that acknowledged the scale of the problem that needs to be addressed, involved a multi-agency approach with cooperation between academic and pastoral structures, and included a level of resources that matched the level of student demand. The university has stressed that “Improving access to wellbeing services for UEA students continues to be a high priority.”
When asked to respond to those who find the statues ‘triggering’ or ‘evocative of suicide’, Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson stated that a new mental health plan will soon be put to the student committee and said: “over the last six months we have brought in new personnel and a new student support service has replaced the Dean of Students service.
The feeling that I get is that people have felt a very positive change so far, but we’re still on a journey… but I believe and students who have talked to me have said that they have seen genuine movement forward with the quality of service. But there is always more we can do. I support the changes that SSS are making.”
Prof Richardson also added that there are a number of opportunities available to students during the exam period to talk to a number of support professionals about stress and anxieties, with exam stress workshops running this term for the first time.
He said: “This is the first time UEA has run such sessions and they are part of the improvements being made to wellbeing and mental health support.” Speaking to Concrete, Western and Non-Western Art MA student Rachael Minott, said: “I think the university have been really good in issuing a statement about increasing their support for mental health issues and acknowledging that there might be a gap that needs to be filled and understood.”