Section 1. Introduction and
how to use this manual
Please click on the links below to jump to the beginning of each sub-section:
1.1. Whom is this manual for?
1.2. What does the manual contain
1.3. How to use this manual
1.4. What is meant by the term 'mental health
1.5. Why do institutions need to be concerned
with student mental health?
1.6. Student mental health: some statistics
1.1 Whom is this manual for?
It is intended to be a resource for all members of the institutionR,
on the basis that everyone, both staff and students, is directly or indirectly
involved in student mental health. The emphasis is that there are issues
which affect all members of the institution and that student mental health
is not just the concern of the support services. It is hoped that in being
accessible to students as well as staff it might encourage a co-operative
approach between the staff and student body.
1.2 What does the manual contain?
Planning: advice on planning institutional policy and procedures to improve
provision for students with mental health difficulties and promote mental
wellbeing in the student community.
Guidance: practical guidance on assessment of need, internal and external
support mechanisms and positive measures to reduce mental health risk
Training: practical suggestions for the development of training in mental
health awareness within the institution.
1.3 How to use this manual
It is intended that this manual may be a useful signposting tool for
any member of the institution who wants to look at an overall institutional
approach to student mental health. It is not there to reinvent material
already produced but to act as a central point where links to other resources
can be found. It may also be useful as a checklist to cover the many different
aspects of developing policy, provision and training.
1.4 What is meant by the term 'mental health difficulties'?
- There is considerable controversy with regard to definition
in the field of mental health and it is not the purpose of this manual
to attempt to give 'clinical' definitions. It is, however, useful for
institutions to agree appropriate generic terminology at the outset. Various
terminology is used in this field. The term 'mental illness' can be particularly
controversial in view of its strictly medical connotation. Preference
is generally given to the term 'mental health difficulties' (or sometimes
'mental distress') to cover a wide range of experiences which may affect
anyone at anytime. Certain terminology should be avoided, such as the
use of labels referring to one aspect of a person e.g. 'a schizophrenic',
as well as the casual use of words such as 'mad', 'crazy' etc, which are
extremely damaging in the fight against stigma and prejudice. It is good
practice to listen to, and respect, the terminology used by those experiencing
mental health difficulties themselves.
- The focus is better placed on the behavioural, physical and
mental effects of mental health difficulties and how these might have
implications for someone to enjoy a full and successful student life.
[I] A useful summary concerning definitions is contained in the
UUK publication, 'Guidelines on student mental health policies and procedures
for higher education', 1.7 & 1.8,
(management guides and codes of practice www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/bookshop)
 'Language and Mental Health' in The Open University Toolkit
students with mental health difficulties, www.ouw.co.uk/products/OTTK014.shtm'
Good resources for understanding terminology can also be obtained from
many of the mental health agencies, support groups and other organisations
listed in Section 7 of this manual.
1.5 Why do institutions need to be concerned with student mental health?
- As everyone has a state of mental health, mental health issues, in
the widest sense, are relevant to all sectors of society. Moreover,
there have been several recent government initiatives in this field
(e.g. National Service Framework for Mental Health) which apply to the
whole of society of which the student body is a part.
- With specific reference to students, there are a number of regulatory
and legal reasons for mental health issues to be an important consideration
for institutions. They include:
- Legislation under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995)and Special
Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001) references:
- Disability Rights Commission, www.drc.org.uk
- SKILL, www.skill.org.uk
- The concept of a 'Duty of Care', reference: AMOSSHE Guide to Good
Practice Duty of Care document, www.amosshe.org.uk/news.asp
- QAA Code of Practice on Students with Disabilities, reference:
- There are critical issues relating to access and retention which make
it a concern for institutions to widen the range of students with disabilities/special
needs who can attend and succeed.
1.6 Student mental health difficulties: some statistics
To support the argument for institutional concern with student mental
health (see section 1.5) it may be useful to
cite some relevant statistics relating to the incidence of serious mental
ill-health in the student body. National studies have demonstrated that
students are a vulnerable group in terms of mental health difficulties,
- 63% of universities report an increase in psychological distress
among students. (Association of University and College Counselling,
- Schizophrenia is the most common form of severe mental illness,
with the first episode typically occurring between the ages of 18 -
30 years and usually induced by stress (IRISS Project, 1994)
- Manic depression commonly begins between the ages of 16 - 25
years, with 1 in every 100 people being diagnosed as suffering from
this illness (Manic Depression Fellowship, 1990)
- The largest group of males who attempt suicide are aged between
20 and 24. Suicide, second to accidents, is the largest cause of death
in 15 - 24 year old men. 56% of young men who attempt suicide have employment
or study problems (The Samaritans, 1990)
- 1 in every 500 women between the ages of 15 and 25 will require
extensive treatment for anorexia. Incidence of anorexia has been linked
with high academic achievement (Eating Disorders Association, 1997)
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