In response to the continuing work of the SU’s ‘Mental Health Matters’ campaign, and an ongoing review within the Student Support Service of mental health support, the Student Support Service are making significant changes to their counselling service.
This year, your team of officers and SU staff have been campaigning to improve counselling services provided by the Student Support Service (SSS). This has involved working with the SSS to meet the increased demand for mental health services on campus.
Between September and November 2016, the SSS found that 24% of counselling appointments were missed. So, not only is there massive demand for counselling, but once students got into the programme, they struggled to attend.
That’s why I’ve been particularly focussed on moving counselling services into the 21st Century – pushing for an improved website, better online resources, and digital access to vital services, so students can access help at their own convenience.
We are pleased to announce that the Student Support Service are in the process of making significant changes to the provision of mental health support and counselling:
- They will be training staff to deliver counselling online, which will allow students to access mental health services digitally. This is especially beneficial for students whose mental health prevents them from leaving the house or students who live far away. This will come into full effect by September 2017.
- SSS are currently hiring a temporary full-time counsellor for 3 months to help address the 140 students which are currently on the waiting list; 2 more trainees are also being taken on, offering 5 sessions a week each
- Move towards a more flexible approach, offering sessions fortnightly, for example, in the hopes of increasing the maximum number of sessions from 6 to 8 in the longer term.
- Making sure that counselling will be available for longer in the Easter period for students who are still in Norwich
- Recruiting a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner to offer guided self-help face-to-face and by phone/email.
We – the whole of the SU – want to thank the SSS for working in collaboration with us. These changes should work to reduce the immediate strain the Student Support Service is under, and work to improve the provision of counselling in the long term.
The Fight Isn’t Over
Over the last four years the demand for mental health services has risen by 52%, but the University’s funding for the Student Support Service has only increased by 7%. This has placed the service under incredible strain, and it is the most vulnerable students that have suffered.
As well as working directly with the SSS to improve their services, the SU has been in contact with the Vice Chancellor, David Richardson, to ask that he address this funding imbalance. In December 2016, the SU launched their ‘Mental Elf Campaign’ – a Christmas-themed petition that asked the Vice Chancellor to reallocate funding to the SSS. The petition gained over 400 signatures in just a few days, and we are hoping that with proof of this demand, the Vice Chancellor will seriously reconsider his decision to underfund the SSS.
Throughout this year, Mental Health Matters has been one of the SU’s priority campaigns. To keep up-to-date with the campaign’s progress, subscribe to it here, or follow my blog for updates.