University announces details of Vice-Chancellor’s mental health taskforce

Vice-Chancellor David Richardson has chaired the first meeting of his new taskforce
on mental heath. This follows four student deaths in ten months at the University of
East Anglia (UEA). In a comment article the Vice-Chancellor wrote in this newspaper
he said, “We do need to confront suicide” and that the university needs help from
outside agencies.

The 11 person taskforce, two of whose members come from uea(su), have set
themselves a range of objectives. These are laid out in a letter to UEA staff seen by

The letter says these objectives “will ensure a whole-institution approach that
recognises all areas of the university have a part to play in creating a culture which
promotes good mental health and wellbeing.”

It added: “The VC’s taskforce is aligning itself with the Universities UK StepChange
Framework on Mental Health and Wellbeing which looks at eight key areas – namely:
Leadership; Transition; Prevention; Early Intervention; Support; Staff; Partnerships
and Data/Research.”

Professor Mark Searcey and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Ward will
explore how to make it easier for freshers to assimilate into student life and for
students to transition through the years up to graduation.

Professor Searcey will also develop a 24/7 team to provide support on campus as part
of the taskforce’s early intervention objective. This comes after concerns from some
students that the architecture of student accommodation is a factor in harming
people’s mental wellbeing.

Additionally the Vice-Chancellor will meet with NHS partner agencies and regional
leaders including MPs to fulfil the taskforce’s leadership objective. The taskforce will
also look at the wording of communications sent to students.

Members agreed to the university’s promise of an extra £250,000 investment for the
2018/19-year and to providing of a total budget for 2019/20 of £1.4m, a 63 percent
budget increase from this year.

The letter said: “A key reference point for [the taskforce] will be the UEA student’s
union’s “We Will Be Heard” paper to ensure we give careful consideration to their

The taskforce will report back to stakeholders after Easter on its progress.


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Chris Matthews

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December 2021
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