UEA is a community of 21,000 people, of all ages, and all backgrounds. Each and every one of us is an individual with our own needs and our own very personal struggles. For all of us, our mental health is fundamental to our ability to grow and thrive as individuals.
I am a father of two. Both my children have left home and gone to university. I know the pressures they have faced. As a father, I know at first-hand what it’s like to worry about your loved ones. None of us is immune from those pressures, fears or anxieties.
UEA is home to more than 17,000 students and 4,000 staff and I fully recognise the University’s responsibilities to ensure we do everything we can to support our students and staff through the various demands of studying, working, or just the pressures of life in general.
UEA is not an island and we are part of a wider society that increasingly struggles with mental health issues. We need to tackle these issues on a whole-community basis. We do all need to look out for each other. There is support out there provided by UEA, the SU, and external agencies. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask. Help is there.
Over the next five months, UEA is investing an additional funding into our mental health and wellbeing services to improve access to face-to-face services, training for staff, and online wellbeing services; this will see the annual budget increase to £1.4m (63 percent increase in budget) and that is a recognition of the very real rise in demand that we are facing.
But I recognise that it is not simply a question of money. What we have experienced recently with the deaths of four young students in ten months is unprecedented for UEA. It is outside our experience. We do need help and support from agencies outside the University and I have asked for that support. I have formed a Vice-Chancellor’s taskforce on mental health and wellbeing to bring together all the expertise we have both within the University and outside UEA.
The loss of four young people at UEA in a short space of time is a tragedy. We need to understand more about how we can develop an effective suicide prevention plan, how we can improve the services we provide as a university, how we can improve access to NHS services, how we can all create a culture where all of us feel more able to ask for help, and where help is readily available.
We do need to confront suicide. And there are a large number of assumptions and taboos about suicide that we also need to tackle, both at UEA and in wider society. There is a lot of ground we need to cover as a community. We do all need to look out for each other. You have my commitment that UEA is treating this as our absolute priority.
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