A Sustainable Mental Health System: Regards to Financial and Social Sustainability

University Mental Health Sustainability Workshop (February 2018)
  • Economic sustainability is concerned with efficient use of economic resources. This includes reducing demand for services, improving value of services, and reducing resource use.
  • Environmental sustainability relates to using environmentally friendly resources that has a low carbon cost including switching away from paper materials and reducing any travel and wasted medications.
  • Social sustainability is concerned with optimising the use of social resources. This includes staff, students, and non-clinical support such as peer support students.
  • One would be to have a strong and high quality mental health team including coupled with safeguarding policies that ensures designated safeguarding people are assigned to each place within the university.
  • They believe that trainee counsellors could be utilised by providing university student counselling services to fulfil their required training hours. This service is to be provided with supervision from qualified professionals.
  • As many students do not sign up to their local GP practice after moving to university (possibly because they would be required to switch from their current GP practice or because they simply do not have the desire to), attendees felt that signing up to GP practices should be a part of student enrolment but universities and the relevant ministries (such as the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education) need to review this system so to allow students the ability to sign up to two GP practices which at universities.
  • Different university departments including professors/personal tutors, counsellors, and support services should be interlinked where they could share relevant knowledge and communication students in accordance to data protection policies.
  • A sustainable SMHS is believed by the attendees of the group to be one that is embedded into the framework of universities. A possible vision of this would to be create ‘Mental Health League Tables’, meaning, rates mental health distress experienced by students has an impact on university league tables, and therefore, the tables are not just concerned with the curriculum.
  • Another suggestion is to have an Ofsted equivalent system for mental health care in higher education which will evaluate the services provided thus making sure accountability is taken. It would make universities look at what they can do to improve as well as provide guidelines for universities to follow coupled with a timeframe for them to implement the services or any necessary changes to services provided.
  • Attendees believed that to make services more sustainable universities must ensure that the number of mental health support staff meets the demand for support services, this means that the number of mental health support staff should increase as do the number of students seeking services.
  • They also believed that there should be more education of mental health, with mental health talks during the induction week coupled with more preventative interventions and personal tutors receiving mental health first aid training.
  • Attendees believed universities need to create safe spaces for students to discuss mental health as well as developing diverse services and support which are encouraging and accommodating for all ethnicities.
  • Improved accessibility — services such as telemedicine allow for increased accessibility.
  • Better communication — more communication between universities and their students. If students having been attending lecturers, universities such reach out either via personal tutor or letter, to enquire about them from a well-being perspective rather than disciplinary.
  • Preventative interventions
  • Option for counsellors to be matched to students’ preferences, achieved by counsellor criteria forms filled out by students. However, there is a concern that this can slow down the process of accessing services, nevertheless, some attendees expressed they themselves would not mind waiting for a more preferable counsellor, and believe other students may feel the same.
  • Peer counselling between students where students can listen to each other and talk about mental health.
  • Establishment of communication networks between departments in accordance to data protection policies.
  • Holistic support — services are able to refer students to other appropriate and accessible services for demands that fall outside of the scope of SMHS.
  • Well-being education should be embedded in curriculum and in orientation week.
  • Focus on preventative measures which would reduce demand and use of SMHS.
  • Invest in best-value interventions and clinical resources which will ensure that students are receiving high quality care provided at the right time, thus ensuring care is delivered efficiently at a minimum possible cost and the correct use of resources.
  • Develop community services such as peer support networks and self-care materials thus encouraging students to develop healthy independent lifestyles, consequently easing demand on more specialised SMHS.
  • Telemedicine services improves accessibility and encourages disclosure as well as presents as a low-cost service for universities to provide. Furthermore, remote services eliminate travel for services thus reducing environmental costs.
  • Departments should be interlinked with regards to SMHS which would increase communication between departments allowing for relevant and necessary knowledge of students to be shared in accordance to the data protection act which would allow for better tracking of a student’s wellbeing.
  • Universities must provide a holistic support with accurate signposting, as well as engage with external agencies.
  • Universities must increase spending on SMHS that is equivalent to demand.

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