How can schools support students suffering with mental health problems to consider university participation?
Deciding whether to go to university is a big decision for any student. There are so many things to consider: courses, institutions, accommodation, fees, funding, friends, grades, hobbies, and of course - whether they'll manage their studies and be happy at the university they choose.
For a student with a mental health problem, these considerations can become overwhelming, and the perceived or real barriers to reach higher education may seem unsurmountable. As a teacher or adviser, you may find it difficult to provide support and advice.
Remember higher education is an inclusive environment
An important thing to share with your students is that higher education is an inclusive environment with lots of support available for all. For example, universities may provide free counselling, mental health guidance, therapeutic care, massage services, low-cost gym memberships, online mental health resources, meditation classes, academic support, mentoring, mindfulness workshops and well-being consultations.
When researching universities, you and your students will find that all institutions have student services departments and well established Students' Unions which offer mental health support and links to internal and external support providers.
Pre and post application support
Students don't need to wait until they arrive at university to access support - it's often a great idea for your students to get in touch with university student services before accepting their place. You can help your students with this, perhaps even making the initial call on their behalf - you'll find that student services teams are very accommodating and happy to provide the guidance you need.
Something else to consider is that students can disclose mental health problems on their UCAS application if they choose. Doing so can ensure that they are able to access support they're entitled to. When assisting your students with UCAS applications, look out for the section of the UCAS form marked 'Disability/Special Needs' - here a student can tick the box for 'mental health condition'. The information provided is then passed on to the universities the student has applied to, and these institutions can begin to consider how to support them.
If a mental health condition is disclosed, the course provider is legally required to make reasonable adjustments to support the students' needs. This can be a reassuring fact for students concerned about managing their mental health whilst at university.
If you have any worries about how to support one of your students with mental health concerns, please contact the universities they're interested in and chat through the services available. Counselling, academic support, mentoring, quiet spaces, extra exam time and personal support usually come as standard. You'll find that lots of universities will be more than happy to foster a supportive environment and assist all students in their progression to higher education.