The University Mental Health Charter is an evidence-based framework that helps UK universities promote better student mental health. Transitioning to university life brings a range of challenges and emotions for students. Experiences such as leaving family and friends, navigating new surroundings, and connecting with new people can be overwhelming. Plus, the pandemic led many students to feel isolated and question the value of their university experience.
To provide some insights into what the University Mental Health Charter is and how it can help, we’ve created this blog post. With this information, you should feel more informed about this important new framework and how it applies to your context.
Student Minds Established the University Mental Health Charter in 2019
Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. They aim to empower students and university communities to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to better look after their mental health and create change. In devising the University Mental Health Charter, Student Minds is leading on a key framework for faculty and students to follow.
After extensive UK-wide research and consultation with over 180 organisations, they published a peer-reviewed Charter in 2019. Then, further pilots commenced across three universities before they launched a Charter Programme in March 2021. Today, over forty UK universities have signed up to the charter, including the University of Bath and Leeds Beckett University.
Plus, it’s been recognised by senior figures. Former Minister for higher and further education Michelle Donelan has encouraged all English universities to join the programme in the next five years.
What is the University Mental Health Charter?
So what exactly is the University Mental Health Charter? It’s an initiative that comprises eighteen themes mapped out against five domains. These domains include Learn, Support, Work, Live, and Enabling Themes.
The central aim of the Charter is for HE institutions to take a ‘whole-university approach’ to student mental health. They highlight four environmental aspects as critical determinants of mental health – physical, cultural, social, and personal. They also define a whole-university approach as one that includes well-resourced, effective, and accessible mental health services and proactive interventions.
As part of the programme, institutions must offer an environment and culture that reduces poor mental health and supports good mental health. The environment should also help staff and students to develop the insight, understanding, and skills to manage their own wellbeing. Creating a culture of openness can lead to a more mentally healthy environment. And students should feel acknowledgement and support for their mental health. Also, they should feel empowered to play their own role in supporting the whole community’s wellbeing.
There are a few streams to the Charter:
An Evidence-Informed Framework
The framework provides universities with a reference point to adopt a whole-university approach to mental health. With its set of best practice principles, this framework acts as a recommended model for all to follow in promoting good mental health and wellbeing.
The Charter Programme
The active programme allows universities to share best practice with others and improve their approach. The benefits of becoming a member translate to improvements for students and staff, who should feel more assured to expect consistent and effective mental health and wellbeing support.
The Charter Award Scheme
The Charter Award is a voluntary accreditation scheme for members that encourages ongoing improvements. By recognising universities that reflect excellent approaches to staff and student mental health, the awards aim to raise standards for all its members.
Why is the University Mental Health Charter Important?
Student mental health has become an area of concern across the UK. Poor mental health has far-reaching effects on students and staff, which is why we’ve outlined some statistics to back this up.
- In the Student Academic Experience Survey, 30% of students considered quitting university. Out of this group, more than a third cited mental health problems as the reason.
- Around 40% of students may meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition.
- 60% of UK students say university life has a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
- Close to 40% of students reported that their mental health and well-being had worsened since the start of the Autumn 2021 term.
- According to the ONS, there were 95 student suicides in England and Wales during the year leading up to 2017.
A range of studies reveals undergraduates who used their natural environment for regular physical activity reported a higher quality of life, along with more positive emotions and lower levels of stress.
Caption.Ed Enables a Whole-University Approach to Mental Health
A whole-university approach to mental health needs institutions to make improvements across the board. Staff and students should recognise the range of factors that can influence poor mental health and do everything they can to foster mentally healthy environments. And by widening access for students with hearing loss, Specific Learning Differences, or English as their second language, Caption.Ed can improve learning outcomes. But it can also promote better mental health for everyone, including all staff and students.
- Caption.Ed can increase participation. For example, students who face barriers to learning may feel more isolated. But when they use live and pre-recorded captioning for lectures, seminars, and meetings they’ll find it easier to follow conversation and, in turn, be better able to participate in discussions. And it’s this process that can boost confidence levels and promote a better sense of community for everyone.
- Reading captions while listening to spoken words improves focus and concentration. And while improved concentration can lead to more confidence, students can also reduce anxiety around missing key points with a downloadable transcript of all captioned events.
- Captioning can improve cognition and information recall. And this can lead to better memory retention. When students feel better about their ability to retain accurate information, they’ll increase their confidence levels and feelings of wellbeing.
Encouraging students and staff to use Caption.Ed can lead to a mentally healthier student environment, both online and in-person. But it can also increase morale and boost attainment. So, talk to our team today about using Caption.Ed to support your students and staff as part of the University Mental Health Charter.