Newcastle University won the award for best student experience at the Guardian University Awards, gaining recognition for the work that it has done in providing students with better mental health support.
The scheme that has been set up enables students with anxiety and depression access to a quicker alternative to treatment than the NHS. With the average waiting time on the NHS from referral to starting treatment of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) being 10 months, Newcastle University’s time is only two months.
The programme offers CBT to all undergraduates as well as postgraduates. It involves qualified staff and trainees from both the doctorate in clinical psychology and the postgraduate diploma in CBT, seeing students who have been assessed as suitable for the treatment. This has led to some students critcising the programme on the basis that CBT does not work for everyone.
Newcastle University have opened a therapy room once a week for the clinic, and within its first year of opening, 38 clients were assessed, with 26 being accepted for the treatment. But this is only the start of their journey, as there are plans for the clinic to be opened 4 days a week and 5 new clinic rooms are planned to be built.
This improvement in students’ mental health services is in response to the growing rate of mental health issues in universities. At Newcastle alone, in 2017 there were 3,500 students who sought help from the university, which was an increase of 24.5% from 2016.
However, many students believe that the university’s mental health services have room to improve. Panel leader for the Mind the Gap Conference Charlotte Boulton argues that six therapy sessions a year is insufficient for creating a lasting improvement on a student’s mental health. She also believes that many students “slip through the cracks” due to university’s refusing to treat students with certain disorders.
The Guardian award was presented on 10th April by Bex Whitehead, the director of group communications. She congratulated the university on “making a meaningful and impactful change on supporting student mental health”, and the statistics seem to be proving this.