Today, NUS and Mind partnered in hosting the first ever Student Mental Health conference at the Royal College of Nursing, London.
Over a hundred delegates ranging from students to representatives of mental health agencies came together to discuss ‘what’s next?’ for mental health across universities and colleges.
Focussing on student access and retention, we explored what more we can do to make sure institutions offer effective support for students affected by mental illness, as well as what we can do to continue dismantling stigma surrounding mental health issues.
The day began with an inspirational keynote speech from actor Naomi Bentley, who has recently decided to speak openly about her diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder in the hope of getting others to do the same. "It's time to discuss the elephant in the room”, she told delegates “It's time to talk".
Time to Change were in attendance, encouraging students’ unions to sign the pledge to work towards breaking down stigmas surrounding mental health issues. Using the University of Sussex Students’ Union as a case study of good practice, Time to Change explored how their bespoke support can benefit students' unions.
NUS president Toni Pearce signed the pledge earlier this year, and we’ve put together a toolkit to help unions who want to carry out work in this area, which we’d encourage you to take a look at and impliment.
The afternoon’s keynote speech came from Kevan Jones MP, who has been widely commended for speaking about his experiences of depression in the House of Commons. “I think it was the right thing to do”, he said. “If it helped one person, it had a positive effect”.
Throughout the day, workshops and plenary sessions shaped discussions about the next steps for creating effective and joined up student mental health support. Ranging from sessions on combatting cyberbullying, to how student-led peer to peer support can be beneficial, the conference was an incredible first step in working together to do meaningful work on student mental health.
“We hope this isn’t the end, but rather the beginning of a shift” NUS disabled students officer Hannah Patterson said in her closing remarks. “A very important shift where it’s no longer the case that students’ unions are lobbying their institution, not that students are passed from pillar to post… Instead, we can work together, both locally and nationally to determine how best to joint up support and tackle stigma”
“We can’t wait to work with you all to put this agenda front and centre in the coming years”.