We’re pleased to see evidence we provided to a wide-ranging inquiry into student mental health support in Wales has been included in recommendations to the Welsh Government.

We responded to a consultation by the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee into the effectiveness of higher education mental health provision.

Our submission included a call for the Welsh Government to follow the Scottish Government in funding additional counsellors in Scotland’s colleges and universities.

Qualified counsellors

We said that Wales should invest in “university counselling services, delivered by qualified counsellors working within a whole system approach to mental health”.

In our submission we also said that as no single intervention works for all students, and that many students who face difficulties do not seek support, the most effective strategy was to take a “whole-university approach” which will improve outcomes for all of the university.

And we said that a whole institution approach goes wider than providing mental health support, but was about “taking a multi-stranded approach” recognising that “all aspects of university life can support and promote mental health and wellbeing”.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, said: “We’re delighted to see the recommendations from our response to the committee inquiry directly referenced in this report.

“We know that student mental health has suffered over the past few years, and students have been disproportionately affected by the impacts of the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Counselling and psychotherapy

“We hope that this report will be the catalyst for further investment in mental health services, including counselling and psychotherapy, for students in Wales.”

The report, titled Mental Health Support in Higher Education, contains 33 recommendations for Welsh Government, and how it should work with the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the incoming Commission for Tertiary Education and Research to meet the needs of Wales's students.

The recommendations cover a wide range of issues such as the impact of the pandemic, mitigating the impact of the cost of living crisis; improved data collection; better information sharing; training and awareness raising for staff and students and more sustainable funding which matches the level of need.

The committee said higher education providers and statutory services in Wales should work together to ensure a consistent level of mental health support so that every student is able to get the best out of their education.

Shared understanding

Top of the priority list for Welsh Government must be the developing of a shared understanding between education providers, healthcare providers and the Welsh Government about the roles and responsibilities for student welfare.

There will need to be a bespoke approach to take account of different types of providers, diversities of student populations, and the differing health boards. This should set out some basic principles underpinning who is responsible for what levels of support, the committee said.

A common framework across the higher education sector should be developed as a priority to set a shared expectation of support tailored to the specific and unique needs of the diverse student population and the institutions they attend, the committee said.

The report Mental Health Support in Higher Education will now be sent to Welsh Government for its consideration.

Influencing decision makers

Meanwhile, we’ve created a guide with suggestions for how members can support our policy and campaigning work.

Our Influencing Guide contains ideas for actions that take a few minutes but could have a significant impact. It also contains information and statistics on our policy objectives in each of the Four Nations to help you draft letters, emails or social media posts to your local MP, MSP, MS or MLA.

Karan Chhabra, our Policy and Public Affairs Officer, said: “We know our members are incredible busy, so we hope our Influencing Guide will support them in grabbing the attention of policymakers to help shape the future of our profession.”