Support for student mental health at university is often provided by untrained academics leading to potential risk, says charity Student Minds.
A new report ‘Student Mental Health: The Role and Experience of Academics’ says that those students often turn to academics who are approachable and with home they already have a pre-existing relationship.
This, they say, can lead to relationships where staff are uncertain of their boundaries, creating risk for the student, the academic and the institution.
Researchers talked to 52 academics at five universities who found that responding to student mental health is now an ‘inevitable part of the academic role. However, this crucial frontline role is currently invisible, and the higher education sector does not have the appropriate structures or cultures to assist academics’.
It is reported that academics believe Student Services are often unable to meet student needs ‘due to waiting lists, lack of provision, narrowness of service offer or ineffective support’.
The report says that academics felt a ‘disconnect’ between themselves and Students Services creating a gap for students to fall into.
The academics interviewed also said that the gap between Student Services and academics must be dealt with through institutional direction and support.
Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds says ‘This research throws light on how academics are a vital but often unrecognised part of the support available to students at universities.
“It’s inevitable that students will reach out to whoever they feel comfortable with, so to ensure that student support needs are met, institutions must support academics to have roles with clear boundaries and good relationships with their Student Services, backed on a strategic level through a whole university approach to student mental health and wellbeing.”
The full report can be accessed here: www.studentminds.org.uk/theroleofanacademic.
The report was written by Gareth Hughes, Member of the Student Minds Clinical Advisory Group and, Psychotherapist at University of Derby and Dr Nicola Byrom, founding trustee of Student Minds and Lecturer in Psychology at King's College London.
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