Appendix A of the Mental Health Policy gives guidance and information to students on mental health in relation to:
- A student’s own mental health
- What students can do if another student appears to be experiencing mental ill-health.
Adapting to Change
- When you arrive at university for the first time you may need to learn to adapt to an environment that is significantly different from any you have experienced before. The changes may include:
- Moving to a new area
- Separation from family and friends
- Establishing new social situations
- Managing a tight budget, or managing their own money, for the first time
- Combining academic study with family commitments
- Being solely responsible for themselves
- Increased academic pressures
For international students the new environment typically includes:
- Living in a different country
- Adjusting to a different culture
These changes can be exciting and managing them successfully is an intrinsic part of the university experience. However, dealing with so much change can be stressful for many students and may contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Studying for a degree is personally and intellectually demanding. Some students can tolerate a lot of stress, while other may find this much more difficult. It will be easier to manage the stresses and strains of being a student if you are conscious of how you react to physical and emotional stress. It will be particularly helpful to understand how your environment affects your stress – for example:
- what you eat and drink,
- how much sleep you get,
- who you spend your time with,
- how much time you spend alone,
- how much exercise you get, and
- the types of activities you engage in
Learning how to balance the things that influence your energy levels, mood and stress helps you to gain greater control over your life. Taking better care of ourselves is one of the best ways to successfully manage stress.
- Mental health
Our state of mind is constantly changing and responding to either positive or negative influences in our lives and the challenging and changing situations at university can contribute to this.
Many feel that a person‟s mental health shifts along a „spectrum‟ (or continuum) from very good/healthy to very poor/unhealthy. Most of the time, if we are lucky, we function at the “well” end of the mental health spectrum. Sometimes, though, negative factors can shift us towards the “not so well” end of the spectrum. If we are aware of this, manage it to the extent we can on our own, and seek help when it is needed, we can shift ourselves back.
Occasionally we may not be so able to do this and may find ourselves being at or staying nearer the “unwell” end of the spectrum.
Taking a thoughtful approach and not rushing into things is vital. Eating properly, resting, being active, engaging with people and things at University, and having enough sleep is crucial for staying well and enjoying oneself.
Guidance to students regarding your own mental health
Appendix A1 is intended to give you guidance if you have anxieties about your mental wellbeing and some pointers to look for in order to address their anxiety. You might ask yourself a series of questions and if necessary, seek help.
Questions to consider:
- I am neglecting myself or self-harming
- I have problems with food/eating
- I feel stressed or can‟t cope
- I feel lethargic
- I feel down, or high
- I am really drinking too much alcohol
- I am using/misusing drugs
- My friends expressed concern
- I have been doing things that “aren‟t me”
A combination of just a few negative pressures could begin to lead to high levels of stress.
It is best to start dealing with problems when they are small. If things are beginning to add up, then you should start by talking to someone: a friend, flat rep, someone in a society or sports team you are involved in, family member, student welfare officer, chaplain, friend from home or someone in the Student Union.
If problems are persisting, or are bigger than first thought you might want to share them with someone who has more experience and might be in a better position to advise. This advice might be available in the University, or outside it. A Student Welfare Officer (SWO) may well be the first port of call.
What you can do if another student appears to be experiencing mental health problems?
This may be a friend, flat mate, someone on course or in a society or sports team with you.
- Have they told you they have a problem?
- Has their weight or appearance been changing?
- Are you concerned about their alcohol consumption?
- Are you concerned about their drug use?
- Has their mood been changeable: down, high, unmotivated?
- Have others expressed concern about them?
Some more serious signs are:
- Disturbed sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to concentrate
- Thoughts or intentions to self-harm (including suicide)
Try not to take responsibility for their problem. It is best to suggest they start dealing with problems when they are small. Talk to your friend. Tell them you are concerned and tell them why you are concerned. If the problems persist, or are bigger than you first thought, you might want to share them with someone who has more experience and might be in a better position to advise you. This might be in the University, or outside it – see Appendix C. Encourage your fellow student to make contact with an SWO or the Health and Wellbeing Service.
If they agree, you could make first contact with someone on their behalf. If you can‟t find or aren‟t sure which is the most appropriate service, then speak to your Student Welfare Officer
NB: It can be stressful supporting a friend; make sure that you look after yourself and seek support and help from others for yourself
APPENDIX B – GENERAL GUIDANCE TO STAFF IN DEALING WITH STUDENTS
Appendix B of the Mental Health Policy gives guidance to staff on mental health in relation to:
- Dealing with student mental health issues
- Confidentiality and disclosure
- Support Services and assessment of needs
- Student Accommodation
- Disciplinary procedures
Academic issues and academic progression related to mental ill health are dealt with in the Fitness to Student Policy (insert weblink).
General guidance on dealing with mental health issues
In discussions with his or her tutor a student may disclose a personal problem or the fact that they are experiencing stress or anxiety or students may approach a tutor to express concern about another student on their programme.
The role of the Personal Tutor in this regard is defined in the PT Handbook. The Director of Studies has a similar role for doctoral students. Tutors can discuss difficult issues in confidence with a colleague or their line manager. Tutors should be clear about their boundaries, of how much help they can offer and where the student can access any additional help that might be needed.
Tutors should ensure that the student is aware of the range of professional support provided by the university listed in the „The Student Guide‟ or refer the student to the Information Centre.
If tutors have serious concerns about a student's safety or the safety of others they can legitimately breach confidentiality in the interests of the duty of care to that, or other students.
B1.1 Mental health difficulties which are or could be a disability
Some mental health difficulties may constitute a disability under the Disability Discrimination Acts of 1995 and 2005 and Disability and Equality Act 2010.
It is important therefore to establish whether the disclosed mental health difficulty is considered a disability because when a disability is disclosed (even if the student doesn't use the term „disability‟) a set of legal obligations are activated and a range of specialist disability support becomes potentially available.
If a student does declare that they have mental health difficulties, it is in the student's and the University's interests to consult with the Disability Officer in Student Services. If a student wishes, this can be done initially by a member of staff without the need to identify the student.
If the mental health difficulty is regarded as a disability, the disclosure to the member of staff is regarded in law as a disclosure to the University. The University is then required to fulfil its legal obligations. There are exceptions to this and they include where a disclosure of a disability is made during counselling, or where a student expressly wishes other members of the University to not know.
In counselling, students are informed that their disclosures are not going to be known outside of the counselling context, and when a student expressly wishes the wider-university to not know about their disability, the student should be asked to confirm this by completing and signing a non-disclosure form.
Students cannot require the member of staff to limit the disclosure of a disability if the limitation would put the student's or anyone else's life or safety at risk.
Students should be positively encouraged to contact the Disability Officer so that suitable adjustments and support can be accessed to enable the student to have the best possible experience at university.
B1.2 Supporting students
In general, tutors can support students with mental health difficulties by:
- Being aware that their wellbeing may fluctuate
- Being aware that their concentration can be affected
- Being understanding and supportive that external factors may impact on their wellbeing
- Being sensitive to issues of confidentiality
- Anticipating their needs and making adjustments – e.g. will the student be in a position to do a presentation/class test if one is coming up?
In lectures, tutors can support students with mental health difficulties by:
- Allowing the student to record lectures/sit where they like
- Giving out notes or lecture outlines in advance
- Giving extra tutorial time
- Recognising that students may be late or unable to attend certain sessions
In assessments, tutors can support students with mental health difficulties by, for example:
- Allowing a student to give presentations to staff only, not whole class
- Allowing a student to do individual rather than group work
Contact the member of staff in the student‟s departmental who has a disability co-ordination role if assessment arrangements may need to be adjusted, for example:
- If the student needs a separate room for a class test
- If the student needs additional time to complete coursework
B2. Confidentiality and disclosure
B2.1 A disclosure form is sent by the Disability Service to all applicants who disclose or who identify themselves as having a mental health difficulty. It asks applicants to sign to say that they agree that particular information about their mental health difficulty can be shared with specified individuals.
B2.2 Information relating to a person‟s mental health difficulty is classed as sensitive personal data. More information can be found about this in the Data Protection Policy which is available on the University web site here.
B2.3 If students with mental health difficulties wish to keep the existence or nature of their condition confidential or partially confidential, then the University will respect this decision to the extent that it can do so without jeopardizing the health and safety of the student or others (see B2.7 below).
However, a confidentiality request may make the implementation of reasonable adjustments for specific needs more difficult or impossible to arrange and this needs to be explained to the student. In this situation the student would be asked to sign a non- disclosure form. This form is kept securely and access to it is restricted. Once accepted on a course, or at any future time during their studies, a student may change their mind and wish to disclose and they are able to do so.
B2.5 Staff can be provided with procedural guidance from the Disability Service or the Health and Wellbeing Advisor on what to do if a student discloses a mental health difficulty.
Guidance on how to recognise the signs that a student may be experiencing mental distress and action which might be taken is also available from the Health & Wellbeing Advisor.
B2.6 Only when a person is considered to be a serious danger to themselves or a danger to others can the confidentiality rules be breached beyond the original agreement, or action taken without permission. This type of decision would normally be taken by staff in the Student Medical Centre, the Health & Wellbeing staff, the Disability Service or other senior University staff. Breaching confidentiality is a serious matter and will only be done in a responsible manner by the University to help maintain its duty of care to the student in question and those around them. In these circumstances, information will only be shared with specific people or agencies on a need-to-know basis.
B3. Support services and assessment of needs
B3.1 Support for students with mental health difficulties is provided by a range of staff. The University’s Health & Wellbeing Advisor provides a free and confidential service.
Students can receive medical support from the Student Medical Centre if they are registered there, and they also have access to support through the Chaplaincy.
B3.2 Students with mental health difficulties can contact the Disability Service in order to discuss their needs and any appropriate reasonable adjustments that may be required. If the student agrees to disclose this information, a Summary of Adjustments form listing the adjustments that are required is sent to the student’s department which then transmits this information to the staff who teach that student. The Summary of Adjustments form may also be sent to other relevant departments, for example the Learning Support Service. Support arrangements are reviewed each semester or annually (depending on circumstances) by the Disability Service to ensure that they are meeting needs.
B3.3 Roehampton Students Union has a full time Welfare Officer, a part-time „Students with Disabilities‟ Officer and a full time member of staff who is an Academic and Financial Adviser. Officers and staff of the Students Union can provide a range of support and advice for students with mental health difficulties. They can be contacted through the Roehampton Student Union Reception or website.
B4. Student Accommodation
B4.1 Students with mental health difficulties, who have accommodation needs will be given particular consideration when this is indicated on the application form.
B4.2 The University recognises that living away from home can in itself be a source of stress and that living in student accommodation can appear daunting. Some students with mental health difficulties may find living in student accommodation particularly difficult. Hall/Flat Reps can assist or support students in residential accommodation who might experience mental distress.
B4.3 Flat/Hall Reps receive appropriate training and are given information on sources of support and information for students experiencing mental distress.
B4.4 Car parking space is very limited and the University can only assure spaces for disabled badge holders. Students should apply to their Student Welfare Officer for a permit.
A complaint may be resolved relatively informally at an early stage with the person(s) most directly concerned. Programme conveners, Directors of Studies, course tutors, Student Welfare Officers and other staff can also be called on to assist and advise at this informal stage. Where this is not possible, a formal complaint can be made using the Student Complaints Procedure. A student complainant with a mental health difficulty may require support to engage in the complaints process and that support can be provided by a Student Welfare
The University has a Student Complaints Procedure under which any student may use to make a complaint about how they have been treated by the University. Students may feel that an actual or perceived mental health difficulty may have given rise to unfair treatment, in which case the Student Complaints Procedure should be followed. See https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/globalassets/documents/corporate-information/policies/student-complaints-policy-2022.pdf
In the event that a student exhausts the University processes and is dissatisfied with the outcome of a formal complaint, they can complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator [OIA] for Higher Education. Contact details and information about the OIA can be found at the following web address: http://www.oiahe.org.uk/
If a student with mental health difficulties feels that they have suffered harassment, either in relation to their mental health difficulty or another reason, they can make a complaint under the University's harassment.
B6. Disciplinary procedures
All students are bound by the University's Code of Conduct. It is hoped that most concerns regarding a student’s conduct can be raised informally in the first instance. Where a disability or mental health difficulty is a contributing issue, staff dealing with informal stages should seek advice from the Health and Wellbeing Advisor. If a breach of discipline is to be considered through formal proceedings, the Health and Wellbeing Advisor will ensure that the Student Disciplinary Committee is aware of any relevant mitigating circumstances in relation to a mental health difficulty.
University Disciplinary Regulations set out the procedures relating to disciplinary action arising from
- A suspension or exclusion may have conditions attached in relation to reinstatement. If the offending conduct relates to the effects of a mental health difficulty, then a condition may be that professional evidence is required to assist the University to determine whether that student’s conduct is likely to be within acceptable limits if they return. Conditions may include a provision that the student engages with effective internal and external support/ medical
- Students who are the subject of disciplinary proceedings can be accompanied by a „supporter‟ who may be another student, a SU Officer or a member of staff of the University.
For more information on Roehampton policies you may refer to this: https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/corporate-information/policies/
And for Aventis policies, here: https://www.aventis.edu.sg/student-policy-for-edp/