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Strengthening Mental Health Support in Universities - A Way Forward

  • Wednesday, 24 April 2024
  • Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre
  • 08:30 - 16:30
Expert Speakers
Sponsors & Supporters
  • Overview

Open Forum Events has a deep-rooted history in hosting nationwide conferences that shed light on the mental well-being of young individuals. We're excited to unveil the "Strengthening Mental Health Support in Universities - A Way Forward" conference, our seventh conference aimed at strengthening mental health support in the Higher Education sector.

Transitioning from school to university is a significant milestone for many young adults. This change, though exhilarating, can sometimes be overwhelming, posing challenges to their mental well-being. Factors like adjusting to a new environment away from home, academic pressures, forming new relationships, and managing finances can make them more susceptible to mental distress.

A 2022 student survey indicated:

  • 52% of the students reported a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • 32% felt their well-being deteriorated after joining the university.
  • Half considered quitting their courses.

With the alarming fact that 100 students take their own lives annually and almost one-third cite mental health as a primary reason for contemplating leaving university, the urgency for comprehensive mental health support is undeniable.

Our "Strengthening Mental Health Support in Universities - A Way Forward" conference aims to unify key figures in student welfare to:

  • Gauge the gravity of the issue,
  • Delve into its causes,
  • Pinpoint risks, and
  • Explore potential solutions.

The agenda includes insightful presentations from experts with first-hand and professional experiences, interactive sessions, open discussions, and informal networking opportunities.

  • Confirmed Speakers

Event Sponsors and Supporters

  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair's Opening Address

  • Simon Postlethwaite, Operational Manager, Greater Manchester Universities Student Mental Health Service (confirmed)

Keynote Address

""We’re gonna need a bigger (life)boat!"; Priorities for Student Mental Health in 2024"

This presentation will give a brief overview of where we are now, and how we got here. Setting the scene for the day ahead and the context in which we are working. Dominique will then outline her key priorities for student mental health, considering both the evidence we have and based on her personal experience of working with multiple universities and national organisations.

"Working with Partners to Improve Student Mental Health: A research-informed toolkit for service leads."

The Student Services Partnerships Evaluation and Quality Standards (SPEQS) toolkit aims to facilitate and evaluate partnerships between university and NHS mental health services. The toolkit was developed collaboratively with Student Minds, Universities UK, NHS England and five regional hubs in England. This presentation will explore the collaborative efforts involved in developing the SPEQS toolkit, as well as the toolkit's domains and how they can be used to facilitate service partnerships to enhance student mental health outcomes.

• Access the SPEQS toolkit
• Interview with HE Professional
• Podcast with SMaRteN


"Suicide Prevention"
  • Suicide and university students
  • Why are students a high risk group for suicide?
  • Developing a strategy to prevent suicide


Question & Answer Session

Allocated planned time for speakers to receive questions from the audience and induce further discussion.


Coffee in the Networking Area


Case Study Session

"Empowering Universities: Navigating Gambling Harm Prevention"

During this session, Ygam will explore the gambling behaviours of university students based on the Censuswide Student Gambling Survey 2024. We will also provide information and actionable insights for universities to enhance awareness and equip staff and students with the knowledge needed to help prevent gambling harms on campus.

"What Does the Data Tell Us About Student Mental Health?"

In this presentation, Michael Sanders will discuss the challenges in student mental health, looking at data from a large scale survey conducted annually for more than a decade, the student academic experiences survey, which shows trends in mental health challenges, and who is particularly struggling.

"Why The Men’s Mental Health Epidemic is a Social Problem and What Can Be Done About It"

A look at the ever-increasing epidemic of Men’s suicide rates in the United Kingdom. Looking at how the statistics show a harrowing story of Men needlessly dying through the stigmatisation of men’s mental health in society. Concluding by looking at how the problem can be addressed at an institutional level, and how AndysManClub branches could bring a positive change to male students lives.


Case Study Session

"Cerina- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based mobile application for managing GAD symptoms"

Context: University students are one of the most vulnerable populations for anxiety disorders and their access to the available services offered at the campuses is restricted. Although digital CBT promises to bridge this gap, the usability challenge restricts their uptake and potential impact. This study aims to test the feasibility and preliminary effects of Cerina, a CBT-based mobile application, in reducing Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) symptoms among Ulster University students.

Methods: Ulster University students (N=158) with GAD symptoms (measured by GAD7) were randomized into two conditions: Treatment (i.e., access to Cerina for 6 weeks)  (N=79) and a waitlist control group (i.e., optional campus-based wellbeing services for 6 weeks and access to Cerina 6 weeks after their randomization) (N=79). Participants in both conditions were assessed at baseline, at 3 (mid-assessment), and 6 weeks (post-assessment). The primary outcome is the reduction in GAD symptoms. The secondary outcomes include depression, worry, quality of life, and the usability of the intervention.

Intervention: Cerina is a class 1 medical device that is registered with the MHRA (Medicine Health Care Products and Regulatory Agency UK). It is a CBT based mobile application for managing and reducing self-reported GAD symptoms. The UI includes engagement features such as a chatbot, and Cerina team is in the process of incorporating smart tool for emotion detection and game-like features into the UI (avatar) in order to improve the user engagement with the target users.  

Completers analyses: At 6 weeks follow up, The System Usability Scale (SUS) scores indicated acceptable usability of the intervention (M=70.71 SD=19.73). Additionally, GAD symptoms were significantly lower for the intervention (N=47) compared to the waitlist control group (N=56) (p=<0.001, d=0.5). Significant differences in favour of the intervention were also found for depression symptoms (p=0.005, d=0.2).

Conclusions and implications: The trial procedures seemed feasible, acceptable safe, and are promising for a future full-scale RCT. The Intention to Treat analyses and the process evaluation will provide further insights on the likely effects, the potential facilitators and barriers for the usability of the Cerina app among Ulster University students.

Trial registration: ID NCT061465



Question & Answer Session


Lunch in the Networking Area

A hot, two-course lunch consisting of multiple options will be provided for delegates. We cater for all dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten/dairy-free; just notify us ahead of time should you have any allergens or requirements.


Chair's Afternoon Address


Afternoon Opening Address

"Student Participation in Mental Health"

This presentation will share information about YoungMinds’ projects with Leeds and Southampton universities where students were involved in the creation of mental health resources and talk about how participation can positively impact on wellbeing. We will be sharing young people’s insights and examples of resources co-created with young people.

"Sleep Problems and Self-Harm at University: A Comorbid Coincidence?"

Self-harm amongst adolescence is a major public health concern with a prevalence that has increased compared to previous years. Self-harm typically begins during adolescence, marking this as a critical period of vulnerability and heightens the need for effective preventative measures. It is well known that sleep is associated with multiple mental health problems, including low mood, anxiety, ADHD, and self-harm. Globally, as adolescents age, they obtain shorter sleep durations, and their sleep patterns worsen. This can be attributed to biological delays in their sleep-wake cycles as well as environmental factors, such as early school start times, forcing adolescents to rise prior to their natural wake-up time. Specific sleep variables have been associated with self-harm cross-sectionally, and some recent evidence has highlighted sleep as a key risk factor for later self-harm. Understanding the role of sleep in the development and maintenance of self-harm can benefit the development of transdiagnostic preventative interventions.

  • Tatjana Damjanovic, Research Officer, Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) (confirmed)
"Evidence and Evaluation: How to Improve Support for Student Mental Health"

The Student Mental Health Evidence Hub is a new, free resource to help higher education providers use evidence to develop their mental health interventions. The presentation will demonstrate how the Evidence Hub can guide evidence-informed practice and build evaluation capacity of student mental health interventions.
It will give an overview of the key elements of the Evidence Hub: the evidence-based toolkit, evaluation guidance and examples of current practice.


"Nurturing Wellbeing: Exploring Factors and Enhancing Support for Medical Students"

In the realm of medical education, there is a growing body of evidence highlighting the susceptibility of medical students to stress and health-related issues. This highlights the urgent need to prioritise and enhance their psychological wellbeing within medical education and policy. Globally, studies consistently reveal that medical students have higher levels of psychological distress compared to their age-matched counterparts, evident through increased rates of stress, depression, and anxiety.
While past research has predominantly focused on stressors negatively impacting the psychological wellbeing of medical students, acknowledging coping mechanisms, there has been a notable oversight regarding positive factors. The role of coping and other factors that can positively influence medical students' psychological wellbeing remains underexplored. Understanding medical students' perspectives on both positive and negative factors affecting their psychological wellbeing is crucial. Identifying stressors in their lives, including personal and academic aspects, and recognising the impact on psychological wellbeing is essential. This insight is critical for tailoring targeted support in medical settings, addressing the unique challenges faced by medical students in terms of wellbeing provision.


Question and Answer Session


Chair’s Closing Remarks


Event Close

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  • Contact Details
  • Sponsors
  • Supporters
  • Venue
  • Featured Events
  • Downloads
  • Who will attend

Contact Details




Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre

Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre

Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre is the ideal solution when searching for conference venues in Manchester. Top-of-the-range conference suites, 3 star value hotel accommodation, delicious dining and friendly service are the ideal components for a successful conference or event in the heart of the city centre.

The 18 conference rooms are decked out with all the mod cons including state-of-the-art AV technology, projectors and screens, free Wi-Fi and flip charts. Our clients cover the whole spectrum and include government organisations, trade unions, large corporate companies, non-profit organisations, health and education sectors and small to medium-sized businesses.

From the get-go we strive for excellence in everything we do and our dedicated team of conference professionals go all out to make sure your conference, event or exhibition runs like clockwork.

Featured Events

  • Student Mental Health- Prevention and Intervention

    • 20 April 2023
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Royal National Hotel, London
  • Supporting Student Mental Health-Improving Outcomes and Achievements

    • 10 October 2023
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre
  • Student Mental Health: Identify-Respond-Support

    • 09 November 2022
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Pendulum Hotel & Manchester Conference Centre
  • Student Mental Health: Responding to the Crisis

    • 17 November 2021
    • 08:30 - 16:45
    • The Royal National Hotel, London
  • Safeguarding Students: Addressing Mental Health Needs

    • 26 November 2019
    • 08:30 - 16:25
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Improving Student Mental Health Outcomes

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

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.
  • Final Presentations SMH 24.4.2024 (2).zip
    Final Presentations SMH 24.4.2024 (2).zip

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
  • 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)