Wednesday 08-02-2017 - 13:05
Last Friday NUS held a roundtable about mental health provision in further education. The roundtable brought around twenty-five college students together to share their experiences and make recommendations for what good mental health provision should look like.
Our next steps will be to take those recommendations and work with other organisations, such as the Association of Colleges (AoC), and turn them into a Charter for Mental Health in Further Education.
1 - Funding is still a major issue for mental health provision
New research carried out by the Association of Colleges has revealed that three quarters (74%) of further education colleges in England have been forced to refer students experiencing mental health crises to Accident and Emergency (A&E), while 85% of colleges reported an increase in students with disclosed mental health issues in the past three years. Yet as a result of the substantial reductions in college funding in the previous five years, most colleges have had to make reductions in non-teaching services and less than half (40%) of the colleges surveyed are now able to support a full-time counsellor or mental health worker on campus. At our roundtable, some colleges only had mental health nurses for four hours a week, and they were expected to see dozens of students in that time. One college had lost two full-time counsellors, and were unsure about what support their students would get in future.
2 - College staff need more training to understand mental health
While some colleges had made efforts to introduce mental health awareness training, it was clear that much more could, and should, be done. Most of the training we heard about was not compulsory and some was only rolled out to senior college staff. The quality of mental health training is also an issue. Training should be more comprehensive than just signposting. It should give college staff a deeper understanding of mental health conditions, as well as a knowledge of how to act as a first respondent. The government should build on its commitment to provide mental health first aid training to all teachers and extend that to all those who work in further education colleges too.
3 - NHS services are struggling to cope
We heard stories from students about issues they’d had with being seen by NHS services, particularly Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Students pointed out that because the ages you can access CAMHS support varies regionally, there was a gap in provision for some 16-18 year olds who were too old for CAMHS but too young for AMHS (Adult Mental Health Services). A number of students told us they believe CAMHS should be available until you are 24, with additional funding to account for more people. Other issues that were highlighted were the huge waiting lists to see NHS mental health services. One student told us how a friend had taken two years to have their CAMHS case processed, and that others had moved counties to access support. It is clear that there is a serious lack of NHS funding for mental health services. Freedom of Information requests show that funding on mental health services has fallen by 2%. Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure a ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health.
If you’d like to hear more about our work in this area, or want to work on mental health provision in your college, then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org