Student Mental Health: Responding to the Crisis

  • Thursday, 22 April 2021
  • The Royal National Hotel, London
  • 08:30 - 16:35
Expert Speakers
Sponsors & Supporters
  • Overview

COVID-19 has intensified dislocation amongst campus communities, propelled healthcare students onto the front line of a global pandemic and upended traditional teaching models; but, it will pass - and when it does, pre-existing issues will resurface. This conference will break-down the cultures, economic factors, social and institutional pressures that contributed to dramatic rises in disclosures of mental health issues and student suicides at universities in the UK prior to COVID-19 - providing delegates with the knowledge and tools to ensure that students return to campuses better equipped to support them after the pandemic.

Delegates will explore why more students are turning to unconventional incomes like gambling and sex work during their studies, how the university experience can compound cultural and environmental conditions that lead students to access and supply drugs; as well as discussing how cross-institutional co-operation as well as legislative review of attitudes towards information sharing could prevent students reaching a point of crisis.   

Student Mental Health: Responding to the Crisis is our third national conference bringing together domestic and European HE institute leaders, students, academic/policy researchers, health, social care and counselling services. Conference delegates will take away the following benefits of attending:

  • 10 CPD Points.
  • Assess the diverse impact(s) and disruption of lockdown and COVID-19 measures on university students - transforming models of teaching for the next academic year, upending the structure and routines that students on the autistic spectrum may rely on; bereaving young people who have lost family members or friends and forcing some into lockdown with people they don't know - or worse, that pose a risk to them.    
  • Explore how universities can eliminate barriers to driving-up achievement and maximising the potential of young people in under-represented groups like BAME and disabled students; as well as discussing how these groups can be supported in improving mental health outcomes.     
  • Developing best practices in data sharing between institutions and families – measuring the importance of student safety and public interest against data protection, as well as investing in welfare support services and advanced planning.     
  • Develop awareness and understanding of the isolation and instability created by increases in students engaging with unconventional incomes like sex work and gambling as a means of meeting the cost of university life. 
  • Deconstruct cultures of anxiety driven by transitions in curriculum and lifestyle, persecutory perfectionism, unrealistic expectations projected by new media platforms, institutional pressures and uncertainty around post-university employment opportunities.
  • Challenge the normalisation of competitive and insecure working cultures in the HE sector – how does this impact the human value of academic labour and the support available to young people struggling with their studies?      
  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors and Supporters

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair's Opening Remarks and Keynote Address

  • Alan Percy, Head of Counselling, University of Oxford (confirmed)
"Chairing the Conflicted-Committee of Self"

Persecutory perfectionism is a blight on the mental health of students. In his presentation at November's conference, Alan Percy introduced delegates to his 'Committee Theory of Self'; a concept that positions the 'Self' as Chairperson of an unruly, conflicted committee that, unless appropriately disciplined, will be overrun by the dominant, persecutory voice of the 'dictator'. 

In the conference keynote, Alan, Head of Counselling at Oxford University and Visiting Professor in Psychology at Fudan University, Shanghai, will expand on his committee metaphor - discussing how the pursuit of a balanced, democratic resolution to marginalise the aggressive voice of the committee's persecutory 'dictator' is essential in improving student mental health.

  • Megan Hector, Senior Researcher, Policy Connect (confirmed)
"Higher Education Commission Inquiry into The Experience of Disabled Students in Higher Education "

Disabled students are less likely to complete their course, are lower paid as graduates and are more likely to experience loneliness. Despite hard-fought improvements to equalities legislation in recent years, disabled students remain under-represented, frustrated by their experience and achieve outcomes below their potential. Megan Hector leads on operations and research for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) - an independent research commission made up of leaders from the education sector, parliamentary representatives from the major political parties and relevant stakeholders. The HEC has launched an inquiry into the experience of disabled students at university, co-chaired by Lord David Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education; Commission Chair Lord Norton and Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby, Kathryn Mitchell.  


The inquiry is seeking to explore and uncover the reasons as to why the disparities exist, so as to advise government and the HE sector on how to remove barriers and give disabled students the support they need. This presentation will look at the challenges and possible solutions to issues faced by disabled students within the three strands of student life that the inquiry will focus on; teaching and learning, living and social, transition and employment.

  • Afua Acheampong, Vice President Education, Nottingham Trent Students Union (confirmed)
"BME Attainment: Research into BME Student Experience and the Effect that Racial Inequality has on Attainment and Mental Health"

White university students in the UK are, on average, more likely to leave university with a First or upper Second-Class degree than those of other ethnicities. This is referred to as the BME attainment gap. Afua Acheampong conducted research into the experiences of BME students at Nottingham Trent University and contrasted the results with the institutes existing data in order to develop an approach to addressing the gap. The research, comprised of 19 one-to-one interviews with BME undergraduate students, submissions from 98 academic representatives of mixed ethnicities, consultations with Nottingham Trent University staff and SU officers, as well as reviewing feedback from attendees of the NTSU's Black History Month event - informed a 23,000 word report, concluding with recommendations for the university to proactively tackle attainment issues. Afua's work has been made available to the university's governance in order to align it with the institute's Race Equality Charter and form an action plan.


This presentation will cover the findings from Afua's research project - exploring how the attainment gap impacts the mental health of BME students and propose recommendations to expand knowledge, strengthen representation and raise awareness of issues restricting BME attainment.    


Question & Answer Session

  • Alan Percy, Head of Counselling, University of Oxford (confirmed)
  • Dr Leah Moyle, Lecturer, Royal Holloway University of London (confirmed)
  • Afua Acheampong, Vice President Education, Nottingham Trent Students Union (confirmed)
  • Megan Dreyer, Chief Executive Officer, #Me (confirmed)

Coffee in the Networking Area

  • Lee Fryatt, Inspector, Hampshire Constabulary (confirmed)
"Confidentiality & Consent - Measuring Data Protection Against Student Safety"

Lee Fryatt is an Inspector at Hampshire Constabulary with 30 years of operational experience, including responding to critical incidents, youth offending and police custody management. He has broad experience of responding to people suffering with mental health conditions who are at a point of crisis in their life. Lee’s family has been personally affected by the devastating impact of suicide, when in September 2018 his eldest son, Daniel ended his own life just after starting University.


Combining his professional capabilities and lived experience, Lee has developed a considered approach to the role of confidentiality and data sharing between universities and families based on the principle of public interest to protect outweighing institutional fears of breaching data sharing policies. This presentation will cover:

  • Thoughts around the Information Sharing element of the suicide prevention strategy for England and Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Adopting intelligence-driven attitudes towards prevention, informed by reality test plans. 
  • Transitioning to a system that supports students who are struggling academically - away from the current 'fitness-to-study' assessment model. 
"Student Sex Work: Exploring the Consequences of Stigma on Mental Health"

There is a lack of understanding about the experiences, motivations and needs of students in Higher Education (HE) who are also engaged in sex work. Aiming to fill this knowledge gap, The Student Sex Work Project carried out innovative action research with HE students which included psycho-social service delivery (online/face to face); and artistic dissemination through film. In this session we briefly present key project findings with a focus on student sex worker’s motivations and needs and using a film recreation of a student sex worker’s original testimony we encourage participants to adopt a bio-psycho-social lens to consider her thoughts and experiences. Engendering debate, we also discuss the negative impact of stigma on student sex workers.


Synopsis coming soon...


Case Study

Validium (confirmed)

Synopsis coming soon...


Questions & Answer Session



We'll be working with venues to ensure lunch at our events is as delicious as ever and caters for a range of dietary preferences - whilst being served in a safe and seamless manner. Some of the new measures we will be introducing to this effect are:

  • One-way queuing systems with safe distancing in operation.
  • Individual snacking bags containing fruit, trail mix and sweets provided on arrival - this will prevent people mixing around snack bars during networking breaks.
  • Individually portioned dishes and pre-sealed cutlery will be served at collection points.  

Where possible, we will request food is sourced locally to reduce food miles, use seasonal vegetables, red tractor certified meat and eggs from free range hens.


Chair's Afternoon Address

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

Panel Discussion: Student-Lead Strategies for Improving Mental Health

  • Jessica Hyer, Founder, Support for Student Sex Workers (confirmed)
  • Wahida Ashiq, Founder, Great British Mag (confirmed)
  • Andrew Wilson, President, Edinburgh University Student Association (confirmed)
  • Annabelle Howard, Second Year Film & English Student, University of Bristol (confirmed)

Afternoon Refreshment Break


Case Study

Representative from Oxford University Press - Epigeum (confirmed) 

Epigeum is a leading provider of exceptional online courses that support the core activities of universities and colleges in four areas: teaching and development, research, studying, and support and wellbeing. Founded at Imperial College London in 2005, Epigeum has been part of Oxford University Press since 2015.


Each interactive, online course is developed through a unique process of global collaboration between world-class subject experts, partner institutions, and in-house specialists, and then made available to higher education institutions on a subscription basis - delivering active learning experiences that are rich, coherent, and memorable, whilst making consistent, cost-effective training achievable for all.

"Preparing Students for the Transition to University to Reduce the Risk of Mental Health Problems"

The largest mental health survey ever conducted with UK university students found that of those reporting a serious problem they felt needed professional help, 81.6% reported their symptoms started at secondary school – not university. This suggests they arrived at university predisposed to mental health problems, meaning action is needed BEFORE students start university.

Our research suggests that:

  • ‘Exam factory’ schools probably aren’t a major problem – but safeguarding and spoon feeding might be, resulting in young people arriving at university both ‘failure deprived’ and unprepared for independent learning.
  • Schools in middle class areas report an increase in ‘helicopter parenting’ – with most studies suggesting this increases the risk of anxiety, stress, depression and emotional problems.
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds whose transition to university is effectively being thrown in at the deep end tend to fare less well than those helped to prepare for what can sometimes seem an alien environment.
  • Smartphones are having significant effects on some young people’s lives – from facilitating over protective parenting (the longest umbilical cord in history) to a range of potentially adverse effects for girls in particular.
  • The recent medicalisation of negative feelings and emotions is leading more young people to interpret normal experiences during adolescence and early adulthood as symptoms of mental ill health.

Fortunately, our research suggests a number of ways of reversing these trends, drawing on both new and established approaches, from both the UK and other countries – to help ensure a smoother transition to university and reduce the risk of mental health problems.


Speaker TBC


Question & Answer Session


Chair's Closing Remarks and Conference Close

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Luke Boulter
  • Gain 10 CPD Points.
  • Assess the diverse impact(s) and disruption of lockdowns and COVID-19 mitigation measures on student mental health; teaching shifting between on/offline models, social interaction restricted and work/travel between regions disrupted.  
  • 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 more about the challenges and possible solutions to issues faced by disabled students within the three strands of student life that the Higher Education Commission inquiry into the Experience of Disabled Students  focuses on; teaching and learning, living and social, transition and employment.
  • Learn more about how drug use impacts student MH - as well as looking at the immediate and long-term dangers of students dealing drugs. 
  • Develop understanding of contemporary discussions taking place around student MH, such as parity of esteem between data protection and human safety.
  • Explore data-driven initiatives utilising emerging technologies that are revolutionising institutional approaches to interventions.
  • Discuss how to overcome barriers to care that are unique to FE/HE.
  • Network and knowledge-share with domestic and international peers, students, NHS service providers, stakeholders from public, voluntary and third sector organisations - developing shared solutions to common MH challenges in higher education. 
  • Explore legislative routes available to commissions and APPGs to develop policy responses to loneliness, isolation and financial instability at university.
  • Contact Details
  • Sponsors
  • Supporters
  • Venue
  • Featured Events
  • Downloads
  • Who will attend

Contact Details




The Royal National Hotel, London

The Royal National Hotel, London

Offering breathtaking views across Russell Square the hotel is within easy walking distance to the British Museum. Well located with Russell Square underground station a 2 minute walk away.

Featured Events

  • Mental Health: Delivering Improved, Integrated and Accessible Services

    • 27 February 2014
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Contact us for venue
  • Mental Health: The Five Year Plan

    • 23 September 2015
    • 08:30 - 16:20
    • America Square Conference Centre, London
  • Mental Health: Better, Faster and Earlier Help

    • 04 March 2015
    • 08:30 - 16:45
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Promoting Integration and Early Intervention

    • 08 December 2016
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Mental Health: Forward Thinking – Delivering the Strategy

    • 15 September 2016
    • 08:30 - 16:45
    • America Square Conference Centre, London
  • Mental Health: Moving Forwards – The Five Year Plan

    • 10 March 2016
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Mental Health: Making the Forward Plans a Reality

    • 27 September 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:45
    • America Square Conference Centre, London
  • Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Taking Early Action

    • 06 July 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Royal National Hotel, London
  • Mental Health: Forward Thinking – The Implementation Plan

    • 16 March 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Children and Young People's Mental Health: Improving Care, Treatment and Support

    • 12 December 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Improving Mental Health Outcomes: Integrating, Coordinating and Transforming Services

    • 25 April 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Children and Young People's Mental Health: Providing Effective Support

    • 03 July 2018
    • 08:30 - 17:00
    • The Royal National Hotel, London
  • Meeting Mental Health Needs: Practical Interventions to Improve Services

    • 12 December 2018
    • 08:30 - 15:50
    • Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London
  • Children and Young People's Mental Health: From Early Intervention to Improved Services

    • 12 February 2019
    • 08:25 - 15:45
    • Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London
  • Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes

    • 16 May 2019
    • 10:00 - 16:05
    • Mary Ward House Conference & Exhibition Centre, London
  • Safeguarding Students: Addressing Mental Health Needs

    • 26 November 2019
    • 08:30 - 16:25
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Downloads & Resources

  • Open Forum Events Sponsorship Brochure
    Open Forum Events offer a number of partnership, sponsorship and exhibition opportunities that can meet your marketing and business development needs.

who will attend

  • Associate Heads of Student Experience
  • ASYE Coordinators
  • Audit and Assurance Consultants
  • Casework Managers
  • Clinical Placement Facilitators
  • Community Fundraising Officers
  • Counsellors
  • Deans
  • Directors of Graduate Taught Programmes
  • Directors of Graduate Taught Programmes
  • Directors of Undergraduate Programmes
  • Directors of Undergraduate Programmes
  • GPs
  • Head of Study Guidance Services
  • Heads of Faculty
  • Heads of Inclusive Student Support Services
  • Heads of Products and Partnerships
  • Heads of Programme Support
  • Heads of Student Services
  • Heads of Student Support