There are more than 2.3 million students studying in UK universities, with many experiencing academic, social and financial pressures. This year, the Charlie Watkins Foundation is working with Student Minds to further our shared objective of improving the mental health of young people through innovative and preventative measures.
Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. Its mission is to support students and members of university communities to look after their own mental health, support those around them and challenge stigma. Its work includes giving support to universities, to work in collaboration with their students and student unions, to create strategies that consider mental health and wellbeing across every aspect of the university experience.
The mental health of university students and staff has been a focus of increasing concern in recent years across the UK, with a weight of evidence suggesting that large numbers of students and staff are experiencing poor mental health.
Therefore in 2019, Student Minds published the University Mental Health Charter (supported by funding from the UPP Foundation and the Office for Students), which was created by thousands of staff and students. The Charter provides a set of principles to support universities across the UK to make mental health a university-wide priority. It aims to provide clarity to universities on what they can do to better support mental health challenges and help shape a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive.
Empowering universities to make a change
In 2020, Student Minds began piloting the University Mental Health Charter Award, which is a voluntary improvement scheme to recognise and reward universities that promote good mental health and demonstrate good practice.
To achieve the award, universities will work alongside students and a team of peer assessors to evaluate their progress against the University Mental Health Charter. With support from the Charlie Watkins Foundation, Student Minds are developing an assessment tool that will enable student voices to be central to this evaluation.
Most importantly, the assessment tool we are funding will be co-created with students, empowering them to have a voice and put forward recommendations, and improvements that need to be made, as well as allowing them to pinpoint the issues their institutions are not addressing. This also encourages students to talk about the challenges they face at university and how they affect their mental health.
Universities that demonstrate progress towards the principles of good practice within the University Mental Health Charter will be awarded with this accreditation, demonstrating that the institution is committed to improving the mental health of their students and staff.
The Charlie Watkins Foundation – Making it possible
The Charlie Watkins Foundation is making this project possible by providing funding for the creation of the assessment tool which will recognise and reward universities looking to gain the Charter Award Scheme accreditation.
Unfortunately, many students are facing barriers in accessing mental health support and many staff at universities feel they need further training and support. At the Charlie Watkins Foundation, we believe that we can help to make a real change and, together with Student Minds, deliver effective intervention and preventative measures, as well as ongoing support.
To help us fund our project to support students and members of university communities, please consider making a donation. All contributions are greatly appreciated and enable us to support more university students struggling with mental health challenges.