• Sam Gamblin
  • 26 July 2023
  • Posted in: Healthcare, Management & Leadership, Education

UMHAN are celebrating our 20th year in student mental health this year. Set up as a small networking organisation for Mental Health Advisers, we now have around 600 members in many different roles across the education sector. UMHAN was a key part in a series of important firsts in Higher Education, including the emphasis on practical and whole-institution approaches to mental health and illness, the development of mental health-specific services in Higher Education, facilitating awareness-raising of mental health and illness, and increasing the appropriate uptake of Disabled Students' Allowances for students with mental health conditions.

Importantly, UMHAN members connected the work being undertaken by specialists in Higher Education with national initiatives regarding social exclusion, health promotion, place- and context-based provision for people with mental health conditions, and tackling mental health inequalities for students with mental health conditions.

UMHAN was founded by professionals in mental health work and has been instrumental in maintaining and improving the professional development and standards of mental health specialists and services in Higher Education.

As a registered charity we have specific charitable objectives which reflect the needs of specialists working in education, the requirements of people with mental health conditions undertaking education, and the benefits of positive action in education and mental health to students, education and society at large.

Our focus is on ensuring high standards of support for students with mental health

conditions - for example, through our Capability and Conduct Framework and Clinical Governance Guidance.

This also means support for staff working in this area - where they often do not have the support of a wide team of clinical specialists e.g. psychiatrists.

Our collaborations and publications include work with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and BACP-UC; we have participated in numerous consultations and working groups over the past 20 years, ensuring that the work of our members, and the experiences of students with mental health conditions are highlighted and prioritised in sector guidance and research.

After 20 years, we welcome the subject of student mental health being given much more focus and a wider priority in education. There have been numerous research projects, project funding rounds, reports and guidance produced by different individuals and organisations. Many reiterate the same themes that we have been highlighting as an organisation for the past 20 years. We believe this is more than enough time to take action on some of the key issues:

  • A focus on the transitions in and out of university for statutory services, making it easier for students to transfer their care between locations and child/adult services and access appointments and medication
  • Developing a more compassionate and trauma-informed culture on campuses, which extends to staff as well as students
  • Increased funding to ensure that systems and data are fit for purpose, and can deliver real insights into the issues that affect student mental health and wellbeing, as well as demonstrating the extent and complexity of student mental ill health

As well as the important conversations about student suicide and prevention which are making headlines, and will be discussed at this conference, we think we should not be afraid to also recognise the good work which is being done by staff in universities, under a climate of austerity and when public services are underfunded and underresourced. We know that  our members, and wider student services teams, are delivering a whole range of amazing and impactful services and support, which save lives every day, helping students to achieve their own personal goals, improving outcomes and achievements.

Sam Gamblin

August 2023

  • student choice
  • student satisfaction
  • students
  • Article Author

About Sam Gamblin

Sam has been the Charity Manager of UMHAN since 2019. During this time, she has co-authored several pieces of sector guidance, such as the recently published “Clinical Governance for Mental Health Services in Education”. She represents UMHAN’s 600+ members and their work with students in crisis and with mental health conditions at multiple levels. …