University is miserable for too many students, says MP

Helen Whately is calling for improved mental health provision at UK universities

Faversham and Mid-Kent MP Helen Whately is calling for better mental health provision at UK universities.

The Conservative, chairman of  the all party parliamentary group for mental health, made the appeal as the nation marks Mental Health Awareness Week.

It comes as figures show that five times as many students now than a decade ago are seeking help with psychological issues.

Both the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University have this week insisted they have robust counselling services in place.

Their assurances came after Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, warned that too many institutions are ignoring the risks posed to mental health of students by drug use.

Faversham MP Helen Whately

Mrs Whately wants to see more work put into student well-being, especially after a series of suicides at universities.

She said: “These tragic deaths shine a cold light on the urgent need for better mental health support in universities.

“There are hundreds of students struggling with anxiety and depression through to psychosis and schizophrenia.

“It’s miserable for those students and a sad waste of potential as some will fail to succeed in their studies and make the most of university life.”

Mrs Whately has been Faversham MP since the 2015 general election, entering politics after a career in business.

If the Boundary Commission’s proposed reorganisation of constituencies happens, she is likely to be the Conservative candidate to stand in a newly created Canterbury and Faversham seat at the next election. Her present seat would disappear in the shake-up.

She has already established herself as a vocal campaigner on health issues, including protecting hospital services at the Kent and Canterbury.

Mrs Whately has outlined her vision for better mental health provision in higher education.

She said: “The Office for Students should include measures of health and wellbeing in its assessment criteria to enable young people to make informed choices.

“Greater transparency will make sure that it is in universities’ interest to invest in students’ mental health.

“Academic and non-academic staff should get specialist mental health first-aid training and students should receive a thorough induction on arrival at university so that they know where they can go for help.

“The NHS should also forge much closer links with universities. Commissioners should consider the needs of students when planning NHS services.”


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