Universities, commissioners, NHS organisations, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) providers and Students Unions from across Kent, Surrey and Sussex, came together last month (24 February) to explore how Covid-19 is impacting the mental health and wellbeing of students in the area.
The event led by NHS England and Improvement South East, in partnership with NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) and Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN) was organised to look at what research had been undertaken on the impact of COVID-19 on students and began to outline how stakeholders could work together to improve the mental health of students across the region.
A key outcome of the event was finding out what was working well; what some of the unique challenges being faced by students and staff were; and how best to work together in partnership – codesigning the way forward across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Participants agreed to come back together in the Spring to share outcomes and progress.
Presenting at the event, Dr Clio Berry from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), talked about the emerging findings from the Students in Transition at University: Aiming to Enhance Mental Health and Social Health and Wellbeing (SITUATE) COVID-19 study, describing how of the 1,200 students surveyed, a significant proportion of students experience high levels of worry about the pandemic, and clinically relevant symptoms of depression and generalised anxiety; but students may not pursue help-seeking due to concerns about support services being over-burdened.
Mark Hamilton from Office for National Statistics (ONS) laid out the findings of their latest national survey: Coronavirus and Higher Education students with around 3,000 students, in conjunction with the National Union for Student (NUS), that highlights how 63 per cent of students felt their wellbeing and mental health had worsened since the start the autumn term (2020).
Becca Randell, ARC KSS Implementation Lead for Starting Well: Children’s Mental Health, gave an outline of the research projects that had been carried out or currently underway.
Chairing the session, Katrina Lake, Assistant Director of Programmes- COVID 19 SE Regional Mental Health, Learning Disability and Autism Cell, said:
“We are fully aware that all our universities are delivering a lot of work to focus on the mental wellbeing of their students during these very challenging times. That’s why it important that we work together to learn from each other’s experiences and share good practice to explore how we can work better together in partnership going forward.
“Today’s event marks the launch of learning collaborative that will help us all support improvements to better meet the mental health and wellbeing needs of our students.”
A second event is scheduled to take place on 12 May 2021.
To find out more or to attend the next event contact: Becca Randell, ARC KSS Implementation Lead Starting Well: Children and Young People’s Mental Health or Dr Sam Fraser, ARC KSS Implementation Lead Primary and Community Care.