Student mental health and unheard voices in healthcare
There is much attention on the mental health issues affecting students. But how often do mental health services hear from university students themselves about their experiences?
I joined Kaleidoscope as an intern for the Perspectives Programme in early September. The Perspectives Programme aims to promote unheard voices in the context of health and care, and enables creative projects to bring attention to these voices.
Within this new and exciting programme, I’ve started a project that aspires to fix the disconnect between mental health services and students’ lived experience in relation to health and care. The project will highlight the students’ experience of mental health to mental health services so that the services can learn and improve.
This will take place at a student-led film festival, where mental health services will be invited to watch films by students about their own experiences of mental health. Film-making will give students the opportunity to express their issues in a new and creative way, and allow them to explore different ways of engaging with mental health services and making their voices heard.
Why have I chosen this project?
There is much attention on the mental health issues affecting students. We have heard that depression and anxiety affects one in four students, student suicides have reached a record level and university dropout rates have trebled in recent years. With this, demand for mental health services has increased, yet the number of students with mental health issues is still high.
With stretched NHS resources and long waiting times for university counselling services, it is no wonder that student voices are being unheard when it comes to mental health.
Recent findings by former health minister Sir Norman Lamb’s office revealed that many universities did not monitor how well services were used, or whether they were meeting the needs of students. There is no doubt that significant improvement of these services is needed.
But how often do mental health services hear from university students themselves about their experiences?
With stretched NHS resources and long waiting times for university counselling services, it is no wonder that student voices are being unheard when it comes to mental health. Earlier this year, a report in The Guardian said that “more ambitious reform might see the NHS, universities, and colleges running an integrated, co-funded students’ national NHS mental health department capable of liaising with university and school counselling services.” In the meantime, however, we must start bridging the gap between student voices and mental health services.
The Student Mental Health Film Festival will give students the space to express what they feel in the context of their mental health. It will also give them the unique opportunity to state how they think services should improve.
What will change?
Mental health services will gain a richer insight into student mental health and will be able to learn from students’ lived experiences of mental health issues. Different mental health services will also have the opportunity to communicate with each other on student experiences. The result will be an improvement of university and mental health services which will have a positive impact on student mental health.