Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes

  • Thursday, 16 May 2019
  • Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London
  • 10:00 - 16:05
  • Overview

Recognition of student mental health and wellbeing issues has led to a culture change in further and higher education institutions. This conference will bring together F/HEIs, public, voluntary and third sector service providers; service users and mental health professionals to review progress made in addressing MH on campus', share best practices and develop their approach to improving student mental health outcomes.     

Pressures brought on by workloads, budgeting, relationships and the transition to independent living contribute to an environment in which, according to YouGov’s 2016 survey of British students, more than a quarter (27%) of student’s reported having struggled with mental health issues. The Institute for Public Policy Research’s 2017 survey ‘Not by degrees: Improving student health in UK universities’ revealed that 95% of HEIs had reported an increase in the demand for counselling services. In 2016/17 student suicides have increased to 4.7% per 100,00 of the population according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Universities, colleges and schools are developing strategies and employing teams to support students developing or struggling to live with mental health issues. This conference will examine how policy can provide support for institutes and students, review the impact of HE reforms and existing cultures on student mental health; in addition to exploring how barriers to accessing services can be removed and how the stigma associated with mental health can be further eroded.

  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair's Opening Address

Rachel O'Brien, Disabled Students Officer, National Union of Students (invited)


Keynote Address

  • John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy and Mental Health Lead, Universities UK (invited)
"Policy to Improve Student Mental Health Outcomes"

Facing greater academic and social pressures, a lack of personalised pastoral care and growing financial burdens, the prevalence of mental health issues amongst students is on the rise. Until 2009-10, the rate of male and female students reporting mental health issues was about 0.5%. By 2015, however, it had risen to 2.5% of female students and 1.4% of male students. Suicide rates amongst students have hit record levels in recent years. Students can also face up to four months waiting times to see a counsellor about their issues. The conference keynote address will address what can be done at a senior policy level to solve the issues.


Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Bristol (invited)

"Mental Health Wellbeing at the University of Bristol"

The University of Bristol has drafted new mental health and wellbeing strategies in response to a consultation with students and staff. Key themes that have emerged from the consultation and will shape the policies are:

  • Ideas to review the structure of the academic year with a particular focus on wellbeing.
  • Support for transition points where students may be particularly vulnerable i.e. suspension of studies.
  • A commitment to collect data annually in order to identify trends that require a response and to act with transparency.
  • The nature and tone of communications around mental health.

What impact does the university's leadership anticipate the new strategies will have on student mental health?  


Barbara Keeley MP, Member of Parliament for Worsley and Eccles South, Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care (invited) 

"Legislating to Improve Student Mental Health Outcomes"

Main Sponsor


Question and Answer Session

John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy and Mental Health Lead, Universities UK (invited)

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of Bristol (invited)

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair, All Parliamentary Group on Loneliness and Member of Parliament for Leeds West (invited)


Coffee in the Networking Area


Case Study

"Stress Management, Emotional Resilience and Challenging the Myth of Perfectionism"

Educational institutions are becoming much better at responding to young people experiencing psychological and emotional crises, they are far less effective when it comes to being proactive and equipping young people with the skills, techniques and understanding to prevent avoidable crises from arising in the first place by teaching the key components of psychological resilience.

  • Professor Sue Powell, Nuffield Health Professor of Health and Wellbeing, Manchester Metropolitan University (confirmed)

The suicide rate in the higher education student population is rising. In 2014, there were 97 deaths by suicide for male students and 33 female students in England and Wales. Our study aimed to explore the health behaviours of students so that tailored interventions could be designed to support positive health and wellbeing during programmes of study.


This presentation will outline self-reported student behaviours and discuss how these findings are being used, not only to inform the design of inventions, but also to support the design of a health and wellbeing surveillance system for use in higher education.


Case Study

"StudentCRT - A Holistic Student Monitor and Early Warning System"

At the University of Manchester we've been using a new software system which identifies students who might be struggling with their mental health by triangulating their engagement and other data. The idea being that student support officers and other responsible staff can then follow up with these students quickly and before matters escalate for them.


In a 2-year trial it's had a profound effect on our student support. Using it we've uncovered several serious welfare cases that would have gone unnoticed and worsened, and using it we're now able to support students almost as soon as problems start to manifest themselves.


In this talk I will describe StudentCRT, the advantages it brings to student support and how I think similar systems could revolutionise mental health provision across multiple sectors.


Question and Answer Session


Lunch in the Networking Area


Chair's Afternoon Remarks

  • Dr Theo Gilbert, SFHEA, Associate Professor, Learning and Teaching, University of Hertfordshire (confirmed)
  • Andrew Marunchak, Senior E-Learning Technology Developer, University of Hertfordshire (confirmed)
"The Science of Compassion"

Andrew Marunchak and Dr. Theo Gilbert, both based at the University of Hertfordshire, will present on progress towards training students and staff in the micro skills of compassion via a multi user virtual reality simulation.


This training is based on fast emerging scholarship on compassion - from neuroscience, clinical psychology and anthropology - that demonstrates how compassion (noticing the distress or disadvantaging of oneself or others, and acting to reduce or prevent that) is an entirely practical motivation (not an emotion) and that it enhances  interpersonal dynamics and quality of subject-related decision-making and critical thinking in task-focused groups.


The micro skills of compassion are therefore now credit bearing on some degree programmes in HE, and this is expected to develop quickly in the next ten years as the underpinning science continues to grow. Indeed, findings in this area have increased demand amongst universities for training in these skills and this has given rise to the impetus for such training to be delivered through VR. The presentation will include clips of video footage from within the simulation to demonstrate the experience and advocacy of this learning experience to audiences.

  • Phil Scarffe, Head of Student Welfare, De Montfort University (confirmed)
"#Healthy DMU"

Phi Scarffe will be asking some questions about the approaches which we are taking to student mental health. Are we clear what our responsibilities are - and what we can reasonably expect of others? Is there adequate attention being given to the requirements of the Equality Act? Does a public health approach have something to offer? He will argue that current disclosure rates are in fact incredibly low and we need to plan for the future on the basis of seeing mental health as everyone’s responsibility. Phil will discuss how the #Healthy DMU initiative attempts to position De Montfort University to address these forthcoming challenges.


Case Study


Question and Answer Session

  • Dr Theo Gilbert, SFHEA, Associate Professor, Learning and Teaching, University of Hertfordshire (confirmed)
  • Andrew Marunchak, Senior E-Learning Technology Developer, University of Hertfordshire (confirmed)
  • Phil Scarffe, Head of Student Welfare, De Montfort University (confirmed)

Chair’s Closing Remarks and Event Close

  • Register for event

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Jonathan Smith
  • Benefits of attending

  • Hear from further and higher education institutes, NHS service providers, public, voluntary and third sector organisations about steps being taken to improve mental health service outcomes.
  • Explore how wider determinants such as social media, the rescinding of student grants/education maintenance allowance, rising living costs and housing contribute to mental health issues.
  • Learn how to practically implement key policy, service and safeguarding recommendations.
  • Benefit from the sharing of lived experiences with mental health challenges and subsequent campaign projects that are driving transformational change to FE/HE curriculum's and laying the groundwork for early-years preventative interventions.
  • Network and knowledge-share with peers, student activists, NHS service leaders, stakeholders from public, voluntary and third sector organisations; developing shared solutions to common MH challenges.
  • Learn about implementing best practices from HEIs that have developed new strategies for addressing student mental health concerns following institute-wide consultation.
  • Explore how legislators, commissions and APGs are developing policy responses to loneliness on campus'.
  • Contact Details
  • Sponsors
  • Venue
  • Featured Events
  • Downloads

Contact Details



Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London

Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London

In 2002 the building was placed on the Listed Buildings at Risk Register with the Mary Ward House trust having failed to secure lottery funding.

The building has been painstakingly renovated to ensure that this extremely important part of National Heritage continues to serve as a place of learning, knowledge dissemination and promotion of equality.

We are continually reinvesting in upgrading and renovating the building to ensure it continues to serve society through the advancement of education (by the establishment and maintenance of a Grade 1 Listed building/museum)

This objective directly enables us in; the advancement of the arts, culture, heritage and science; the relief of those in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage; the advancement of citizenship or community development

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  • Children and Young People's Mental Health: From Early Intervention to Improved Services

    • 12 February 2019
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