Safeguarding Students: Addressing Mental Health Needs

  • Tuesday, 26 November 2019
  • Manchester Conference Centre
  • 10:00 - 16:25
Expert Speakers
Sponsors & Supporters
  • Overview

Open Forum will be holding a follow-up event to our Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes conference, with a focus on topics raised in feedback from delegates that attended the previous event.

May's event facilitated a wide discussion on institutional cultures and practical, strategic approaches towards safeguarding students, including; the importance of preventative care earlier in life to develop resilience in children and young people before they reach FE/HE, assessing pitfalls in the transition from living at home to living at university, addressing student suicide rates and integrating the science of compassion into HE curriculums. 

This conference will expand the conversation to include dedicated keynotes and panel discussions covering:

  • Parity of esteem between data and human protection; is data protection prioritised over student safety.   
  • The considerable impact of poor student finance provision on young people's mental health - how can legislators improve access to fiscal support at university.
  • The impact of drug use on student MH.    
  • Innovative new ideas assisted by emerging technologies that are providing platforms for universities to identify mental health issues before they become a crisis.
  • How social media compounds perfectionist thinking.         
  • Effective language that can be used to engage students with concepts of mindfulness, emotional resilience and positive psychology. 
  • The importance halls of residence, HE estates and facilities play in promoting positive mental health outcomes. 
  • Overcoming barriers to care that are unique to FE/HE; such as students accessing therapy on campus but returning home for summer - or recognising the difficulty staff face in supporting students who are far from home.  
  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors and Supporters

  • Event Programme


Registration & 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

"Student Mental Health: What is Happening, Why it's Happening and What We Can All Do to Support Students"

Do you ever wonder why so many teenagers and young people are struggling with mental health issues? Would you like to know how every one of us can better support young people’s wellbeing? At a time of rising psychological distress in young adults, university GP and leading UK student mental health expert, Dr Dominique Thompson shares her experience of caring for thousands of students over 20 years, and challenges us all to help the next generation feel well, live happily and achieve their potential.


Dominique offers a fresh perspective and thought provoking insights for university staff,  parents, teachers, and for young people themselves, on the impact of 21st century culture changes on the younger generation, throughout the world.


Student Testimonial

  • Annabelle Howard, Second Year Film & English Student, University of Bristol (confirmed)

Annabelle, a Film & English Studies student at the University of Bristol will draw on her own experiences and those of her peers to outline how information given to students in secondary school and further education creates misconceptions of university - creating immense pressures before they have even set foot on campus. Annabelle's presentation will cover some of the following issues through the prism of how they have impacted students at her university:

  • The myth of perfectionism
  • Pressures of independent study
  • Contemporary significance of degrees and the misconstrued value of individual assignments
  • How the university environment can exacerbate issues and possible ways in which university mental health policy could be tailored to combat the challenges
  • Dr Leah Moyle, Lecturer, Royal Holloway University of London (confirmed)
"#Drugsforsale and Student Transitions into Drug Supply"

Dr Leah Moyle has worked on two research papers that spotlight the changing nature of drug markets, drug dealing and cultures of drug use amongst young people. Leah's articles '#Drugsforsale: An exploration of the use of social media and encrypted messaging apps to supply and access drugs' (the first academic investigation into mobile apps in drug markets) and 'Student transitions into drug supply: exploring the university as a risk environment' asses multiple factors in how young people access drugs and how university can compound cultural and environmental conditions that lead students to becoming regular drug users.


Leah's presentation will integrate findings from both papers, including:

  • How apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Tinder and Snapchat are providing new, easier routes to supplying and accessing drugs at university.
  • How distance from guardians, the interconnected nature of student populace and financial insecurity can contribute to facilitating transitions of otherwise non-criminal populations into drug use and supply.

Case Study

"Peer Support - A Resource to Promote Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing for Students"

Megan’s presentation will offer refreshing insight into the benefits of utilising peer support as a means to tackle the growing demand for improving student wellbeing.


The transition into higher education is a significant milestone that presents new challenges and emotional pressures and with the stigma lifting and society as a whole being more aware of positive mental health and wellbeing, it’s important for Universities to reflect the same mindset.


Student lives are fast paced and under high pressure, cluttered by online networking where they feel the need to be plugged into social media 24/7 and have an underlying fear of missing out. High profile campaigns effectively raise awareness however, health services and University support channels are overloaded and cannot cater for the growing demand. The presentation will delve into the benefits of delivering a practical, preventative solution that alleviates and complements existing University support services, providing a scalable student enrichment opportunity. Megan will also explore a framework for improving self-awareness, emotional resilience and personal growth through real human interaction; an early intervention to ensure students can thrive and succeed in higher education.


 To learn more, visit


Speaker TBA, Beat, The UK's Eating Disorder Charity (confirmed)

Synopsis TBC...

  • Lee Fryatt, Inspector, Hampshire Constabulary (confirmed)

Lee’s family has been personally affected by the devastating impact of suicide - when in September 2018 Lee's eldest son ended his own life just after starting university. Lee took part in a panel discussion at May's Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes conference; providing insight into his experience and contributing thoughts that Lee will build-on in his keynote, including:

  • Parity of esteem between data and human protection; is data protection prioritised over student safety?
  • Student service providers operating impractical access times - crisis' don't adhere to the traditional 9-5.       

Question and Answer Session


Coffee in the Networking Area

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

Dr. Theo Gilbert and Andrew Marunchak, both based at the University of Hertfordshire, will present on further progress that has been made towards training students and staff in the micro skills of compassion via a multi user virtual reality simulation since the first Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes conference in May,


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.

  • Ben Channon, Associate, Assael Architecture (confirmed)
"Impact of the Built Environment on Student Mental Health"

Ben Channon's recently published book 'Happy by Design: A Guide to Architecture and Mental Wellbeing' asks; can good design truly make us happier? Ben argues that given we spend over 80% of our time in buildings, shouldn't we have a better understanding of how they make us feel?


In his presentation, Ben will explore how the built environment of FE/HE facilities, estates and halls of residence impact student mental health - how can the architectural design of HE facilities and estates make students and faculty happy whilst supporting mental health?

"Fostering 'Response-ability' in Young People"

The premise of response-ability comes from Greek philosopher Epictetus' understanding that 'People are disturbed not by things but by the view they take of them.' 


Hence, the key to psychological health is not to avoid challenging situations; but rather to choose an effective attitude towards them. This insight is the basis of the A-B-C Model of Emotional Health:


A = the ‘Activating Event’ eg. being dropped by a university sports team;

B = the ‘Belief’ ie. the attitude the person takes towards this event – what they ‘tell themselves’ about it; and

C = the ‘Consequence’ eg. anger, despair, giving-up – or a determination to train harder and earn re-selection.


Clearly, the ‘Consequence’ is determined not by the Activating Event itself, but rather by the ‘Beliefs’ and self-talk that the person subsequently engages in at point ‘B’.


For example, if the student activates Beliefs along the lines of: ‘This is so unfair! I absolutely must be picked for the first team! It’s awful that I haven’t been – and I never want to play again!’ they will generate a great deal of upset. Equally, if, instead, they activate Beliefs along the lines of: ‘It’s disappointing not to have been chosen for the first team; but other players deserve a chance to play too - and I if I train extra hard, I might be selected for the next match’, they will generate positive feelings of motivation instead.


John will talk about how to foster ‘response-ability’ in young people and help universities to develop and become ‘Response-ability Champions’.


Question and Answer Session


Lunch in the Networking Area


Chair's Afternoon Address

  • Gabrielle Mathews, Member of the NHS Assembly and Vice-Chair of Welfare, Imperial College School of Medicine Student Union (confirmed)
  • Alan Percy, Head of Counselling, University of Oxford (confirmed)

Alongside his remit as Head of Counselling at the University of Oxford, Alan Percy is Chair of both the Executive Committee for the Heads of University Counselling Services and the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group. Alan is a well-published writer across topics pertinent to supporting student mental health, such as; the impact of outsourcing services, counteracting perfectionism, supporting students during exam periods and the different MH challenges faced by undergraduate/postgraduate students.   


Professor Richard Hall, in collaboration with Professor Kate Bowles at Australia's Wollongong University, authored the article 'Re-engineering Higher Education: The Subsumption of Academic Labour and the Exploitation of Anxiety' for the Workplace journal. The essay analyses the political economy of higher education, in terms of Marx and Engels’ conception of subsumption. It addresses the twin processes of formal and real subsumption, in terms of the re-engineering of the governance of higher education and the re-production of academic labour in the name of value. 


In his presentation, Professor Hall will elaborate on how neoliberal marketisation of HE are driving universities to becoming anxiety machines. 


Case Study

  • Noel McDermott, Chief Executive Officer, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd. (confirmed)

Noel’s presentation will explore relational systems and groups and the impact this has on mental illness or wellness.


He will look at the individual as a social animal and explore definitions of health and ill health from this perspective - not the now traditional  ‘health’ model; which sees these things situated in the individual only. One of the unhealthiest states to be in is in fact an isolated individual. Typically serious social isolation will lead to a reduction in life expectancy, increase in mental illness, physical illness, anti-social behaviours. Living an emotionally connected social life is the treatment to these illnesses.


The presentation will explore how non specialist mental health professionals and also mental health professionals can utilise social health and healthy systems to treat mental illness. It will explore it in the context of the radical changes in mental health care in the UK since the introduction of care In the community in the 1980’s.


The UK now delivers mental health through community not institution, and what does that mean for the education community, as need seems to be increasing - how do we support that need and avoid splitting off the people who we label as the 'patient'. The presentation will look at this within the framework of inclusion and human rights. 


Debate: Disparity in Approaches Towards Safeguarding Student Mental Health Between Russell Group and non-Russell Group Institutes

Speaker TBC

Speaker TBC

This debate will feature representatives from a Russell Group and Non-Russell Group university - situated in the same Geographic region - discussing respective institutional approaches to safeguarding student mental health.


Does attending a Russell Group university create additional pressure that compounds the typical stresses of studying at university? Do RG universities have a greater responsibility to their students? Participants will discuss methodology, access to resources and best practises for developing student mental health policies.


Question and Answer Session

  • Alan Percy, Head of Counselling, University of Oxford (confirmed)
  • Professor Richard Hall, Professor of Education and Technology, De Montfort University (confirmed)
  • Noel McDermott, Chief Executive Officer, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd. (confirmed)

Chair's Closing Remarks & Event Close

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Jonathan Smith
  • Hear from FE/HE institutes, mental health service providers, public, voluntary and third sector organisations about steps being taken to improve mental health outcomes on campus.
  • Explore how wider determinants such as social media, withdrawal of student grants/education maintenance allowance, rising living costs and unaffordable housing contribute to mental health issues.
  • Learn how drug use impacts student MH - as well as assessing the immediate and long-term dangers of student's dealing drugs. 
  • Develop understanding of contemporary discussions taking place around student MH, such as the parity of esteem between data protection and human safety.    
  • Listen to case studies of practical implementation of key policy, service and safeguarding recommendations.
  • Explore initiatives spearheaded by data and emerging technologies that are revolutionising institutional approaches to interventions.   
  • Discuss how to overcome barriers to care that are unique to FE/HE.
  • Benefit from sharing lived experiences with mental health challenges and subsequent campaigns that are driving transformational change in FE/HE curriculum's and laying the groundwork for early-years preventative interventions.
  • Network and knowledge-share with domestic and international peers, students, 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 APPGs are developing policy responses to loneliness on campus'.
  • Develop effective communication techniques that can be used to engage students with concepts of mindfulness, emotional resilience and positive psychology.
  • Gain the maximum number of 6 CPD points.
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  • Sponsors
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  • Venue
  • Featured Events
  • Downloads
  • Who will attend

Contact Details




Manchester Conference Centre

Manchester Conference Centre

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Featured Events

  • Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes

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

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who will attend

  • Associate Head's of Student Experience
  • ASYE Coordinator's
  • Audit and Assurance Consultant's
  • Casework Manager's
  • Clinical Placement Facilitator's
  • Community Fundraising Officer's
  • Counsellor's
  • Dean's
  • Director's of Graduate Taught Programmes
  • Director's of Graduate Taught Programmes
  • Director's of Undergraduate Programmes
  • Director's of Undergraduate Programmes
  • GP's
  • Head of Study Guidance Service's
  • Head's of Faculty
  • Head's of Inclusive Student Support Services
  • Head's of Products and Partnerships
  • Head's of Programme Support
  • Head's of Student Services
  • Head's of Student Support
  • Head's of Student Wellbeing and Welfare
  • Learning Support Lecturer's
  • Mental Health Advisor's
  • Mental health and well-being coordinator's
  • Mental Health Mentor's
  • Mental Health Support Worker's
  • Mental Wellbeing Services Manager's
  • Placement coordinator's
  • Practice Placement Development worker's
  • Quality Improvement Manager's
  • Senior Patient Educator Tutor's
  • Senior Practice Development Sister's
  • Staff Nurse's
  • Student Support Officer's
  • Student Welfare Officer's
  • Studentship Alliance Manager's
  • Studentship Officer's
  • Support & Compliance Manager's
  • Transformation Support Coach's
  • UG Student Support Administrator's
  • Vice Dean's (Education)