Sir Norman Lamb, the former mental health minister and mental health activist, has added his name to Concrete’s Mental Health Crisis campaign.
Sir Norman said: “I applaud Concrete for the efforts [they are] pursuing in highlighting mental health among students and doing it in a responsible way. All elements of your campaign are appropriate and constructive.”
He added he has a “clear impression the university wants to work with the student body” around the issue of students’ mental wellbeing.
Sir Norman joins a list of prominent names supporting the campaign including the mother of a student who took his own life at UEA, former health minister Steve Brine and Norwich South candidate Clive Lewis, as well as mental health activist Stephen Fry.
Concrete launched their mental health campaign in September following the deaths of four UEA students in just ten months. Three of the students were found on university grounds.
Following a survey by Sir Norman that found over 25% of universities have not increased or are cutting funding, the former North Norfolk MP called for a student mental health charter to make universities legally bound to support students’ mental wellbeing.
In a statement he said: “Clearly some students are being failed by their universities. The lack of appropriate mental health provision at some universities is intolerable. When the prevalence of mental ill health among students is increasing, it is completely unacceptable that some universities are cutting funding. We should be seeing sustained increases – after all, mental health support has historically been way underfunded.
“What is worrying is that some universities have no handle on the scale of the problem. They are failing to record waiting times; they aren’t able to track what their precise spend on mental health is. It’s outrageous that this should be the state of affairs in 2019.
“It’s a total postcode lottery. It’s incredibly unfair – in some universities, like Cambridge, you get a clear sense that they’re tracking the data and they know what’s going on at ground level in a detailed way and using innovative practice. I completely applaud that. Elsewhere, though, the picture is just very murky.
“It’s not good enough. Students ought to know that in return for their tuition fees they’ll not only receive an education but also that the institution will demonstrate a duty of care towards them.
“I’m calling for a Charter, enshrined in legislation, which guarantees students’ rights to access mental health care and requires universities to take action on suicide prevention.”
Sir Norman’s survey revealed:
- Over a quarter of universities have failed to increase or are cutting funding when compared to a peak in the last five years.
- 75% of universities saw an increase in engagement with university counselling services between 2014-15 and 2017-18.
- The average longest wait for counselling was 43.5 days – over half the length of a standard university semester.
The survey also showed that many universities do not have the ability to track the state of their own mental health services:
- Over three quarters of universities were unable to provide data on longest wait times for accessing counselling.
- A third of universities said they did not record average waiting times for seeing a counsellor.
- 75% of universities that responded to the survey were unable to provide any detail on what routes students had been referred by to mental health services.
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