Leeds Beckett University is a higher education provider in the heart of Yorkshire.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
During the 2018-19 academic year we established a Suicide Intervention Task Group which has completed work on response planning, updated protocols and guidance for staff, as well as a public-facing document on ‘Our Response to a Student Death by Suicide’. We have produced a short booklet entitled ‘It’s OK to talk about suicide’, which we have asked Samaritans and MindWell to endorse. We have added a new section to our Student Wellbeing pages called ‘Concerned about someone else?’ and this will be the focal point of the resources we have gathered together on the recommendation of the Task Group. The Group has made recommendations for staff training, which will dovetail with University commitments to student and staff mental health and wellbeing generally. For example, the Task Group has been the impetus for the purchase of a new online Mental Health Awareness module which addresses suicide and which will be rolled out widely among colleagues .
The task group has had representation from academic staff, student support services, Public Health England, Samaritans, the Students’ Union, and those with lived experience of losing a loved one to suicide.
In addition, we continue to expand our Student Wellbeing Team who continue to develop partnerships with statutory mental health services and with the third sector.
What are your current priorities?
For World Mental Health Day 2019 we will be launching a student and colleague mental health and wellbeing action plan which is underpinned by four inter-dependent themes: physical wellbeing, financial wellbeing, mental and emotional wellbeing, and community and environment. Our current priorities include fostering a course-centred support model; extending ways in which students can receive support and promoting self-help and peer support; equipping students with life skills; and providing opportunities for socialising and relaxation.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Like the vast majority of universities, we have seen an exponential rise in students seeking support for mental health difficulties during the past five years. We are seeing an increasing number of students who report barriers in accessing appropriate mental health support from statutory health services. Commonly, this can be a feeling of ‘being passed from pillar to post’ where they are seen as too risky for one service but not risky enough for Community Mental Health Services.
The rise in students either seeking support or presenting in distress has had an impact on academic staff and we need to ensure that colleagues have the awareness and confidence to support students appropriately and that they feel supported in doing this.