Following his vow to tackle student mental health at the Buckingham Festival of Higher Education, Sam Gyimah, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, has come up with a plan to address the serious issue of student suicides.
At Buckingham he said action needed to be taken to make it easier for universities to contact students’ parents when they have a serious mental health issue.
At a summit for universities, national bodies, charities, students and local leaders at the University of the West of England, he proposed plans for students to decide if they want to opt in to an alert system that will notify their parents if staff feel they are struggling with a mental health crisis.
At the session at the Festival of Higher Education, James Murray, whose son took his own life whilst studying at University, was given the chance to share his views to senior higher education staff and Sam Gyimah, about how he would like Universities to relax data protection rules and allow them to be able to contact parents if they feel their child’s wellbeing is at risk.
In a conversation between Sam Gyimah and Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, it was agreed that “nothing matters more than preserving life. We need porous walls to save lives.”
The new mental health charter is not compulsory for Universities, however, the Minister said: “We want mental health support for students to be a top priority for the leadership of all our universities. Progress can only be achieved with their support – I expect them to get behind this important agenda as we otherwise risk failing an entire generation of students.”
Nancy tucker, student and author, spoke openly and honestly at the festival about her struggles with eating disorders and mental health. She discussed an email she received from a first year student, who had recently taken an overdose and was in hospital unable to submit an essay for a deadline later that week. The student explained their struggles with stress and depression in an email to their tutor, only to have the short and abrupt response of “Extension until Thursday? Sent from my iPhone”.
The latest Office for National Students UK university suicide figures show there were 95 recorded suicides for the 12 months leading to July 2017 in England and Wales.