UWE Bristol announces Mental Wealth First commitment

Issue date: 07 December 2017

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), will today [7 December 2017] announce to a Westminster audience the University's Commitment to put Mental Wealth First for students and staff.

At the Westminster Forum conference, Professor West will say to an audience of university and health professionals, national politicians and media, “Mental wealth is about developing positive wellbeing in individuals and communities, and raising awareness of mental health issues.

“Universities should be proud of the work they are already doing to support young people with their mental health and wellbeing needs, but we know there is more to be done to address this growing issue.

“That's why today I am announcing UWE Bristol's Commitment to put Mental Wealth First, for both students and staff. This means taking a whole university approach to ensure we have the right support, systems, training and partnerships in place. This new commitment will enable us to join up our existing mental health and wellbeing provision, identify the gaps and be truly aspirational in our ambitions.

“It will become a strategic priority for us, with a mental wealth first approach taken in everything we do, in order that we develop an open, supportive and caring environment in which everyone can thrive and grow.

“This is not just for staff and students at UWE Bristol. Locally, we are also working with colleagues and partners to play a role in the approach to mental wealth across Bristol, and nationally, our work will also be used to drive forwards University UK's Step Change Framework, to shape the future approach to mental health and wellbeing in universities across the country.”

This commitment follows the release in September 2017 by Universities UK (UUK) of their 'Step Change Framework', which aims to collectively address the issue of mental health issues and embed good practice in universities.

UWE Bristol is one of three universities* nationally, taking a leading role in piloting the Step Change Framework, working in partnership with UUK and Student Minds UK, the UK's leading student mental health charity. Professor West is also the Chair of UUK's Working Group on Mental Health in Higher Education.

Announcing this commitment, UWE Bristol will now use the Framework to develop a detailed strategy and five-year action plan for the University. Evaluation will be included as part of the process, to understand the difference the Mental Wealth First strategy has made on student and staff wellbeing. The strategy and evidence will then be used to help other universities.

John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy at Universities UK, said, “We want universities to adopt a strategic approach to mental health and wellbeing and to support the spread of good practice across the sector.

“We commend UWE Bristol for their vision and their willingness to take a leading role on this important issue and to tackle it publicly for the benefit of all universities.”

Rosie Tressler, Chief Executive of Student Minds UK said, “Improving support for those experiencing mental illness at university and creating cultures where all of the community can thrive is a complex task that is going to require a forward looking mindset and a collaborative approach between universities, students, staff and a whole range of partners. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Universities UK and UWE Bristol in developing a step change to how mental health is talked about and supported at UK universities.”

This announcement follows the Government's release earlier this week of proposals to improve children and young people's mental health support. The Government is asking people for their views on the measures, which are set out in a Green Paper on Children and Young People's mental health, released earlier this week. The measures include the creation of a new national strategic partnership focused on improving the mental health of 16-25 year olds.

Next steps

The next steps for UWE's Commitment to put Mental Wealth First are:

Nov 2017 – January 2018: Undertake a complete mental health and wellbeing audit, across all of UWE Bristol's services and departments, to understand current provision and activities

Dec 2017: Announcement of Commitment and call to organisations and partners to work with UWE Bristol to develop Strategy and Action Plan

Jan - March 2018: Develop Strategy including five-year Action Plan that will enable the University to deliver its Commitment.

Easter 2018: Launch Strategy and Action Plan for Mental Wealth First.

Examples of UWE Bristol's current mental health and wellbeing services

- UWE Bristol is the first university in the UK to commission and pilot Kooth Student, which provides online counselling between midday-10pm on weekdays and 6pm-10pm at weekends. The service means timely support with no waiting lists, as well as removing the stigma students can feel attached to asking for support. It gives students access to professional online counsellors, live moderated forums and self-help materials. Students can also agree therapeutic goals with their counsellor, charting movement as progress is achieved.

- Nightline, a phone-based student- to-student support service is also being launched in the New Year.

- The UWE Bristol Wellbeing service, uses an innovative, solution-focused approach offering an initial 90 minute Therapeutic Consultation to students, which has proved to be very effective in helping students' manage their presenting issues, with a significant proportion of students not requesting further sessions. This approach promotes resilience and autonomy, builds confidence, reduces anxiety, enhances performance and means there is no counselling waiting list.

- The Wellbeing service also operates a daily drop-in service each afternoon in term-time, which enables students to make initial contact and speak to Wellbeing staff on the spot.

- UWE Bristol offers Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) workshops, where students lead sessions in emotional resilience for their peers. The University has also developed animations that help to explain emotional resilience skills for students.

- The SAM app, a self-help app for anxiety developed by UWE Bristol, has had one million downloads in over 100 countries since it was launched in 2013

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