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UCL revamps wellbeing service to support students with mental ill health

6 December 2017

An out of hours, 365-day a year telephone counselling service is being offered to UCL students at home or abroad as part of a strategy to support students experiencing mental ill health.

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UCL is one of only a handful of UK universities to provide a free and confidential counselling and information service out of core hours and 365 days a year.

Staff at UCL’s Student Support and Wellbeing Services (SSW) are also working with world-class scientists at UCL’s Division of Psychology and Language Sciences to launch a therapeutic clinic to better support students with the most complex health conditions, including those with suicidal behaviour, substance abuse and mood disorders.

The moves are part of an action plan drawn up by SSW after an independent review by SUMS Consulting to look at the way to best use resources and develop best practice.

“Our students’ wellbeing is as important as their academic progress,” said Denise Long, Director of SSW. “We are committed to supporting them in looking after their wellbeing as we recognise that increasing numbers of our students are experiencing mental ill health.”

In the past 10 years, it is estimated there has been a five-fold increase in the number of students disclosing mental illness to their institution. “UCL is committed to supporting students in an empathetic, timely and appropriate manner,” said Ms Long.

Measures introduced include:

· Expanding from one to six the number of student support and wellbeing advisers and coordinators with one having a special focus on male mental health to break down barriers that might dissuade them from seeking support.

· A new daily drop-in service providing students with immediate access to a wellbeing, mental health or disability adviser. Students can also book a face-to-face, telephone or Skype appointment.

· Developing a single point of entry for students to approach SSW with any issue that might affect their study. This will entail creating a single SSW website from the current three, of “student psychological services”, “student disability services” and “current students.”

· A bespoke app available at no cost to all UCL students providing easy access to information about services from a single location, including not only health information and university services but also links to local resources such as Camden mental health and crisis support.

· A collaboration with leso, a digital health company, to produce an online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) service for UCL students. From September 2016 to July 2017, leso was used by 112 UCL students.

UCL has partnered with Care first to provide the out of hours telephone counselling and information service which students can call after 5pm and before 9am, at weekends and during periods at Christmas and Easter when the university is closed down.

An enhanced version of the out of hours service is also available to students on a period of study abroad (Freephone 0800 1974510; Outside the UK +44 (0) 1452 623246). A simple referral pathway between the services has been developed by Care first and SSW to offer some students structured telephone counselling with the same counsellor.

Comprehensive and regular training and coaching has also been undertaken to ensure staff have the necessary skills not only to provide excellent care but also to empower students to make decisions, find solutions and take control of a situation as much as possible. In July and August, SSW co-ordinated comprehensive training for the Warden teams who provide pastoral support in UCL student accommodation.

SSW will also launch a pilot based on the Cardiff Model with the aim to ensure students can access therapeutic support as soon as possible. Under this solution-focused model, students receive effective therapeutic support and at the same time, the capacity increases to see more students.

Links

Go to SSW for the full mental health plan

Confidential information, support and counselling service – Care first

Freephone 0800 1974510 Outside the UK +44 (0) 1452 623246