View from University: Mental health and wellbeing support

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 October 2018

John C McCarthy. Picture: UEL

John C McCarthy. Picture: UEL


At this time of year a university is very focussed on those new students joining our ranks - known in the trade as Freshers.

This time of the student calender is synonymous with partying and making new friends.

We, like most universities, put on a Freshers’ Fair, and hold events which collectively form the Freshers’ Week, the idea being to welcome these new students and make them feel at home.

But we are also mindful of those new students who may have more difficulty in settling into the new environment. Those who may be living away from home for the first time, and may find making the adjustment difficult – not just during Freshers’ Week, but during any point of the academic year.

I used to work in the NHS as a counselling psychologist and now work at the University of East London, as head of the Student Wellbeing Team. Universities are unique in the kind of mental health provision they provide. Many of my team have worked in the NHS before, and with a multi-disciplinary approach, we discuss cases and decide on the best approaches.

Our wellbeing practitioners are all accredited professionals in the field, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that student support is not an NHS service. That’s why it’s important to have good relationships with local NHS services, so we can point students to the right places when they need it.

We’ve had psychotherapists come on site, we have relationships with early intervention and psychosis teams, and we’ve got links with a GP surgery.

When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, no one should have to support themselves -least of all our students.

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