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Is Theresa May really serious about mental health provision for students?

The Telegraph

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Mar 25, 2014
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www.telegraph.co.uk
While the Prime Minister’s speech promised much for schoolchildren and employees in terms of extra training, resources and support for dealing with and preventing mental health issues, the mention of students and university life was noticeably absent.

At the University of York, five students took their own lives in the space of a year, and the University of Bristol is similarly still reeling from the suicides of three students in close succession. Student mental health is reaching a crisis point, and Monday's speech seemed like the perfect opportunity for Theresa May to address this.

Certainly any commitment to tackling mental health problems is a step forward, but to omit to mention a problem so glaringly obvious, a problem the Government has only intensified with its higher education policy in recent years, seems like a deliberate snub.

The speech did propose some significant action on mental health, but whether students will actually feel any impact from these policies is less certain.

The Prime Minister promised the introduction of mental health first aid training for schools, something which will help staff identify and respond to signs of mental health problems in children at an early stage. This is especially important to prevent mental health problems resurfacing later in life, for example at university, but also fails to acknowledge that mental health problems do continue when a student leaves the school system.

Introducing more guidance on mental health first aid training for university staff for example, would go a long way towards ensuring students receive the support they need in such a stressful environment.

The PM also mentioned a green paper on Children and Young People's Mental Health Services to be released later this year. Again this is promising, but in a 2015 Government report on 'promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing’, specifically targeting the 0-25 age group, there was only one mention of the strain the university experience places on mental health.

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