The University’s Head of Student Services, Ian Blenkham, reflects on the work achieved by the Wellbeing Centre, and addresses how it hopes to progress in its work and in developing links to the NHS.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Exeposé for a balanced and well researched article about mental health issues at the University and across Devon.
As the article states, there is a national trend of increasing mental health demand and this is particularly acute amongst students and young people in general. The reasons behind this are complex, although it is at least in part likely to be the result of mental health problems being de-stigmatised (a good thing) and the increased pressure on students to succeed at university.
Like all universities, Exeter is working out how best to shape its mental health support service to meet the needs of its students in the context of this increased demand. We have moved to more Single Session Interventions (SSIs) and telephone triage appointments to ensure that students get faster access to some support.
We are delighted at the response from many students that this service has been a great help in the short term. We need to continue to refine our provision in this way, listening to our students and their representatives through the Guild/FXU. We regularly meet at the University Student Exchange where Wellbeing is discussed and plans are formulated for the forthcoming year.
However, we also need to be clear about the boundaries of the service we can offer at the University. Our focus has to be on ensuring students are healthy enough to be able to meet the requirements of their studies – but we cannot replace the NHS. The role of university Wellbeing Services is to support students in their learning, not to provide long term treatment or cure. For students who pose a serious risk to themselves or others, or who have chronic or long-standing mental illness, it is appropriate that we refer to statutory services where their care can be more closely co-ordinated by specialist professionals. We are working with the local Devon NHS Partnership to ensure that they are fully aware they need to provide support in this area.
Ian Blenkham, Head of Student Servicesbookmark me