In this issue
Overcoming shame and silence
Sexual assault is emerging as a major issue for universities and colleges, reports Peter Jenkins
Counselling a changing cohort of clients
A study reveals a steep rise in demand for mental health support from students
Compassion: the missing value in higher education?
Accepting imperfection in themselves and in others can help students become more resilient, posits David Mair
Be safe, be secure
Maria McGuigan explains how to work safely and legally with data
From the editor
Counselling does not take place within a vacuum, but within a society that is continually changing. This is illustrated by a recent research study commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), summarised in this issue, which reveals a dramatic increase in demand by students for support with mental health issues, and more students presenting with pre-diagnosed, complex or severe mental health conditions. In the face of this changing cohort of clients, counselling and other student support services are often working in a more joined-up fashion and taking a more proactive, holistic approach to students’ mental health, the report found. Counsellor, Ruth Caleb, Chair of the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group, reflects on the findings, and two services that participated in the study outline their approaches.
Change is salient too in Peter Jenkins’ article, ‘Overcoming shame and silence’, which reports on how colleges and universities are coming under increasing pressure to adopt a more proactive role in supporting student victims of sexual assault. As society shifts towards seeing sexual assault as a societal, rather than individual, responsibility, more victims are waiving their right to anonymity, finding their voice and coming forward to publicise the issue. This wave of change in public attitude is propelling student, institutional and now government momentum for policy change that is likely to have wide-ranging implications for counselling, Peter explains.
David Mair, meanwhile, reflects on the rising demand for counselling by students, and wonders why this is so. Is it that students are less resilient than their parents and grandparents? Or is it that life is more stressful? While the answer may not be definitively either, David believes that what has diminished, in the competitive society we live in today, is students’ ability to be compassionate towards themselves – and others – and that this fuels stress and burnout. If students can develop self-compassion, they can increase their resilience, he argues.
Finally, the winds of change are blowing through the pages of your journal. It is my pleasure to introduce the new editor of University & College Counselling, David Mair. With over 20 years’ counselling experience in the sector, David has contributed numerous articles to this journal, including one in this issue, and has also recently taken over the role of Chair of HUCS. He takes up the reins to edit the March issue. Welcome David!