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Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes

  • Thursday, 16 May 2019
  • Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London
  • 10:00 - 16:05
Expert Speakers
Sponsors & Supporters
  • 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 Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair's Opening Address

  • Gabrielle Mathews, Member of the NHS Assembly and Vice-Chair of Welfare, Imperial College School of Medicine Student Union (confirmed)

Keynote Address

  • Alan Percy, Head of Counselling, University of Oxford (confirmed)

Most people in the HE sector are aware of the huge rise in students experiencing mental health difficulties, not only those seeking help from counselling and other student services but for a sizeable proportion of the student population as a whole. If HE institutions are going to provide effective support services and develop effective strategies, policies and initiatives to improve student mental health as a whole it is important to address one of the key psychological causes of student mental health problems. From psychological research (Hill and Curran) to clinical evidence, perfectionist thinking is not only increasing in the younger generation but also a key driver behind a whole spectrum of mental health problems. This presentation will look at how perfectionism develops and creates a persecutory and rigid mind-set, particularly in an academic setting, which also undermines emotional resilience in students. The session will also consider what can be dome both at a clinical and institutional/cultural level to challenge the negative effects of perfectionism.

  • Meera Kavia, Final Year Undergraduate Psychology Student, Bournemouth University (confirmed)
"Supporting the Transition to Independent Living"

Student mental health is a rising concern and is one that should be tackled as early as possible. The transition from living at home to living independently can be formidable, with numerous challenges testing students’ resilience levels. With a constantly changing environment, anxiety levels can remain heightened for a longer time than expected. This can encourage students to isolate themselves in order to feel safe and secure. This keynote speech will talk through a lived experience from a university student who struggled with their mental health and suggestions will be put forward that could better prepare students for possible forthcoming struggles at university.

"Legislating to Improve Student Mental Health Outcomes"

Improving the nation's mental health is prominent in the legislative agenda of UK parliamentarians. Afzal Khan CBE MP is Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health - a group of cross-party MPs and Peers assembled to discuss, scrutinise and develop strategies to assist with legislating process of improving mental health outcomes through policy. In his address to delegates, Afzal will reflect on the policy agenda for improving student mental health outcomes; online and on-campus.


Main Sponsor


Question and Answer Session

  • Alan Percy, Head of Counselling, University of Oxford (confirmed)
  • Meera Kavia, Final Year Undergraduate Psychology Student, Bournemouth University (confirmed)
  • Afzal Khan CBE MP, Member of Parliament, Gorton (confirmed)
  • Lee Fryatt, Retired Inspector, Hampshire Constabulary (confirmed)

Coffee in the Networking Area

"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

  • Gabrielle Mathews, Member of the NHS Assembly and Vice-Chair of Welfare, Imperial College School of Medicine Student Union (confirmed)
  • 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.


Case Study

  • 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.


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

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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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