The vision of the Programme is for all universities to adopt a whole-university approach to mental health and become places that promote the mental health and wellbeing of all members of the university community.
The Charter Programme, led by Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, brings together universities committed to making mental health and wellbeing a university-wide priority to share practice and create cultural change. Universities on the Charter Programme form part of a UK-wide practice sharing network with access to events and opportunities to come together to improve their approach to student and staff mental health. Programme members can also work towards the Charter Award, an accreditation scheme which recognises universities that demonstrate excellent practice.
By joining the Charter Programme, universities have committed to working towards a set of evidence-informed principles of good practice. This includes a commitment to working with staff and students to provide adequately resourced and effective support services, as well as creating an environment and culture that reduces poor mental health and promotes good mental health for the whole university community.
The Charter Programme was developed in consultation with staff and students, with initial funding from the UPP Foundation and the Office for Students and further funding from Jisc and the Charlie Watkins Foundation. The Charter Programme was piloted at the University of Derby, Hartpury University and Glasgow Caledonian University in 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, the prevalence and complexity of mental health difficulties in students was on the rise. The number of students declaring a pre–existing mental illness to their university has more than doubled since 2014/15 and staff reporting that they are responding to increasing numbers of students experiencing suicidal ideation, self–harm and episodes of psychosis.
During the pandemic, students and young people were more likely than the general population to feel anxious and worried, unable to cope and experience self-harm3 and 58% of students say their mental health is worse than when the pandemic started.
Staff, too, have reported increased workload and burn out in responding to the pandemic. Supporting our university communities mental health has never been more important.
Rosie Tressler OBE, CEO of Student Minds said: “Even before the pandemic, universities were facing increasing reports of poor student and staff mental health. The last year has highlighted even more the need for a renewed focus and investment in the mental health and wellbeing of our university communities. Now is the time for the universities to come together as part of a collaborative effort to enact long-term, strategic change.
We are inspired by the number of universities that have committed to coming together as part of the University Mental Health Charter Programme to ensure improved and more equal mental health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole university community. Creating a higher standard of mental health support across the whole higher education sector. Together, we can create a future in which everyone in higher education can thrive."
Michelle Donelan, Universities Minister said: “The past year and a half has been an unprecedently difficult time for students and staff, and I am personally committed to ensuring they receive the consistent, effective mental health support they deserve. This is why I strongly support the University Mental Health Charter, which aims to drive up standards in promoting student and staff mental health and wellbeing on campuses across the country.
“I thank all those providers who have already signed up to the Charter Programme. I hope all universities will work towards the principles of good practice set out in the Charter, as part of their whole university approach to mental health and that all universities will apply for the Programme in the coming years.”