'Registered Contacts' advised for Universities in aim to improve student well-being

Student mental health is a national crisis, are registered contacts the answer?

Connor James Lamb
24th October 2022
Image Credit: Flickr
Content warning: discussions of suicide and mental health.

Let me preface this by saying that student mental health is a multi-dimensional issue. But recently, Universities UK (UUK) decided to contribute once more to the discussion surrounding student mental health and predictably take the easy way out.

Universities are being encouraged to gather the contact information of the parents/carers of students upon enrolment in order to support their mental health, under new guidance from the UUK. Let’s be honest for a second - this guidance isn’t anything groundbreaking; quite a few universities already do this, although this is often considered optional. 

Looking at statistics on student suicide, you might feel a bit skeptical as to the need for this guidance. With student mental health being rightfully treated as important enough to pour research into, the suicide rates of students are lower than that of the whole UK population, according to the Office for Students. 2.5 per 100,000 of the UK student population carried out suicide compared to 5.6 per 100,000 of the overall UK population. However, the suicide of one student affects so many others, including friends, family and co-workers and this is something that universities take for granted if the eleven suicides of Exeter University students over the past six years are any indicator.

Even acknowledging that an increased number of students will struggle with mental health this year, the effectiveness of involving family members is definitely debatable. While the involvement of a supportive family is important to the quality of life of those with mental health conditions, universities realistically do not have any impact on this. And it isn’t fair to expect that of them.  

Would they confess that they prioritise profits over well-being?

In reality, I believe Universities UK does not actually care about any of this, as this is a cheap diversion tactic made to avoid having to actually answer to students. The reality is that the Higher Education sector has mistreated us over the past two years, so it isn’t surprising that some of us are now struggling with mental health conditions. I have to wonder what a phone call from a university to the parent of a depressed student would sound like. Would the university talk about the counselling waiting list? Would they confess that they prioritise profits over well-being? Would they apologise for the very recent disruptions to their child’s education? Or would they shrug their shoulders and feign ignorance? Just a thought.

Remember, you are never alone.
Newcastle University provisions: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/wellbeing/urgenthelp/#suicideconcerns
Newcastle University Student and Wellbeing Services phone number: 0191 208 3333
Samaritans: 116 123
National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 0800689 5652
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): 0800 58 58 58
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