StepChange is here

Thursday 01-03-2018 - 00:00


A few weeks ago I released the shocking results from our freedom of information request, conducted in partnership with UEA union, that showed that only 22% of universities had a mental health strategy in place.

On the back of these results, I have put together a brand-new campaigns guide for students unions to lobby their institutions to put in place a properly funded, thoroughly researched, culturally competent mental health strategy.

There has been a significant increase in the number of students disclosing a mental health condition whilst at college or university and institutions are struggling to keep up. Now is the time for these institutions to focus on how best they can support their students to get help and stay healthy.

I am calling for a radical overhaul of how mental health is addressed in further and higher education. Mental Health must now be adopted as a strategic priority, implementing a whole institution approach, and crucially, with students involved at every stage.

NUS has been working with Student Minds, Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education, Guild HE, Nightline, Matthew Elvidge Trust, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, amongst others, to contribute to the Universities UK Step Change framework.

The Step Change framework guides institutions through the process of developing a holistic approach to addressing student mental health. The framework considers mental health in every aspect of campus life, including the curriculum, academic schedules, location and provision of on-site support and emphasizes the importance of early intervention and prevention work for all students.

The framework also emphasizes the need to engage with external organizations to provide joined-up support for students, particularly at times of transition, for example moving from home to university accommodation.

We recognize that the framework is not perfect, and there are clear areas that we lobbied on that were not included and of course we shall continue to campaign for improvements and equip SUs with the tools to do the same. The importance of cultural competency in student services, the necessity to engage with students, the damaging and problematic rhetoric around students needing to be more ‘resilient’, and the vitally important role SUs can play in designing and evaluating services are all areas highlighted within the guidance, with support to campaign for them too.

The campaigns guide I am launching today is there to help students’ unions run their own local campaigns on mental health, to demand their institution adopts a strategic approach to student mental health, and crucially puts the student voice at the heart of it.

You can download the mental health campaigns guide here.


Yours in unity


Izzy Lenga



Features, Welfare

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