Department for Education written question – answered on 24th May 2023.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans his Department has to provide funding for improving the mental health of 18-25 year olds in further or higher education; and whether it is his policy to support the introduction of legislation to make it compulsory for universities and colleges to (a) record suicides and (b) facilitate joined up monitoring of mental health of young people in further and higher education.
Every student death is a tragedy. The government is committed to doing all we can to prevent these devastating events, which we know have a profound and lasting impact on family and friends.
Whilst we do not plan to legislate higher education (HE) and further education (FE) providers to publicly record suicide numbers, this department does believe it is important to understand the overall trends in HE suicides and share best practice when tragedy does occur. This is why we asked the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to publish an updated linked data analysis on HE suicides. The ONS published the refreshed dataset and analysis on 31 May 2022, which included HE student deaths by suicide from the 2016/17 to 2019/20 academic years, and this can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/estimatingsuicideamonghighereducationstudentsenglandandwalesexperimentalstatistics/2017to2020.
In order to better support student mental health, especially with regards to the transition between school or college into HE, the department has asked the Office for Students to distribute £15 million of funding to HE providers in 2023/24 to support student mental health, including providing additional support for transitions from school or college to university, with a particular focus on providing counselling services for students. Funding has already supported 32 providers to actively participate in groups in the seven NHS regions to explore more formal partnership working, with the ultimate aim of closing any gaps in mental health provision for students.
To support the development and implementation of a whole college approach to mental health and wellbeing, the department is giving all colleges in England access to senior mental health leads training by 2025. We are also providing record funding for children and young people’s mental health support in the NHS long term plan, through which we are investing at least an additional £2.3 billion a year above 2018/19 levels into mental health services in England by March 2024. This funding will enable an additional 345,000 people under the age of 25 to get the mental health support they need.
The department also recognises that early intervention is critical to prevent the progression and escalation of mental health issues. For this reason, we are introducing Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs) in schools and colleges. These teams offer support to young people experiencing common mental health issues and facilitate smoother access to external specialist support.
An important step towards HE providers delivering mental health support is student disclosure of mental health conditions. It is vital that students disclose their mental health conditions to their HE provider, so that they can be supported, rather than suffering in silence.
Students are actively encouraged to declare a mental health condition when they apply for university via UCAS. Prospective students can enter any needs related to their mental health difficulty, which is then passed on to the course providers so they can consider additional support, including support prior to commencing the course.
The department supports the Suicide Safer Universities framework, led by Universities UK and Papyrus, which can be found at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-research/publications/suicide-safer-universities. As well as supporting universities to prevent student suicides and support students and families after the death of a student, this framework includes additional guidance on information sharing and postvention guidance (actions after a death by suspected suicide), which can be found here: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-research/publications/features/suicide-safer-universities/sharing-information.
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