"It is incredibly important to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination at school, college and university: fear of negative reactions to their mental illness stops 32% of young people with a mental health problem applying for further education.” (Time to Change campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Health)
University is not always the fun place where many students expect to experience ‘the time of their life.’ Nor do they automatically cope with a new way of working, especially having come from an educational institution where their teachers have been relentlessly spoon-feeding knowledge in the hope of securing examination results that satisfy Ofsted. Coping with parental expectations, fear of failure, living away from home or in another country, making new relationships and sudden financial pressures can become overwhelming.
It is therefore unsurprising that we are seeing a significant increase in higher education students with mental health problems, many of whom find it hard to talk about or even admit to themselves. Without such students gaining proper professional and experienced support, their problems can become very serious indeed.
“On average, someone suffering from mental health issues won’t tell even their closest friends and family for over a year. Although talking to someone can feel like one of the most difficult things to do, it can really help because it allows you to consolidate your thoughts and emotions” (Student Blog, Imperial College).
At UMO (University Mentoring Organisation), a social enterprise, we aim to give the quality support that students struggling with their mental health require. We provide specialist mental health mentoring in a safe, confidential environment with highly trained and experienced professional mentors. Our mentors work closely to the requirements of the student’s individual needs while ensuring firm boundaries are kept and any risks are properly assessed.
“I honestly feel that my mentoring help was one of the reasons I managed to successfully complete my MA as I was truly struggling.” (MA Student).
The overall aims of our mentors are to empower the student to identify their own issues and targets and help them find ways of resolving or reaching them; to support and encourage the student to find ways to manage their own learning and development. Crucially, at UMO we provide a space to stop, think and talk about the psychological pressures students are under with an experienced person who understands the pressures of the university environment.
We also think it is absolutely essential that our mentors are properly supported in their work. To this end we provide them with regular compulsory professional supervision, CPD and team meetings.
Don’t just take our word for it. Our recent survey of students mentored by UMO revealed that:
• Less than 5% drop out
• Over 90% said their grades improved
• Over 90% said they were able to keep up with the demands of their work
• Over 89% said they felt more confident in themselves
• Over 75% said they had a more positive view of their future
• Over 90% said they had gained more options for the future
• Over 89% said they were participating more in their learning
• Over 85% said they were more able to resist using drugs or alcohol
We are also aware that higher education disability and wellbeing departments are facing growing pressures as the number of students disclosing mental health conditions increases. We always maintain strong transparent links with them and are often asked to provide training for their staff or consultations.
“I very much appreciate the service because it has helped me to focus on my studies, strengthened me and guided me to other services for more support that I was not aware of. I was about to give up, but my mentor’s encouragement gave the support I needed to focus and improved my study skills as I had not done any formal education for more than 15 years.” (Student)
UMO services include:
• Specialist mental health mentoring.
• Wellbeing mentoring (short term mentoring).
• Mentoring for international students.
• Mentoring for students undertaking a BSc/BA/MA/MSc/MRes/MBBS/PhDs or other degrees.
• Consultations to universities and colleges.
• Mentoring, workshops and trainings to university staff.
• CD for specialist mentors and wellbeing practitioners.
• Individual and group supervision.
• Group facilitation.
Dr Anna Matthews, Founder and Director of UMO
To find out more about the University Mentoring Organisation, visit their website here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are using this blog to help connect stakeholders across Higher Education interested in student mental health. If you have a project you are working on or an idea you'd like to develop, why not write your own blog post for us?