A new specialist NHS service in Greater Manchester will provide Salford university students with the help they need to overcome significant mental illness.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham joined students, university leaders and a team of mental health professionals who provide the service for an event at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

The scheme aims to provide expert support for students who have complex health needs – giving them timely access to professional help for conditions including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Just some of the mental health illnesses student face during their studies.

It is intended to meet the increasing mental health needs of university students and prevent them “falling between the cracks” of university and NHS services at a time when it is more difficult for them to receive specialist help.

Around 500 students a year are expected to use the £1.6m service, which is the result of a unique partnership in England between Greater Manchester’s universities and the city region’s NHS.

The Greater Manchester university student mental health service pilot is a partnership between:

  • The University of Manchester
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • University of Salford
  • University of Bolton
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership

The service provides the main clinic in the heart of the Oxford Road campus and satellite locations in Salford and Bolton.

Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, said: “We know that poor mental health and wellbeing can be a huge barrier to success, and we need to help

break down that barrier for our students. With the launch of this innovative, sector-leading partnership, there is potential to change lives; providing more effective diagnosis and treatment at an early stage and helping all our students gain the skills to manage their own mental health so they are enabled and empowered to succeed.”

 

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The staffing team includes a consultant psychiatrist, a consultant psychologist, psychological therapists and mental health nurses. Around 40 students have already accessed the service since the beginning of the  2019/20 academic year

Additional group therapy is provided by mental health charity 42nd Street, while the Sick! Festival will also provide arts-based events to involve students.

2018 review by Universities UK found a dramatic increase in the numbers of students seeking help for mental health difficulties, a trebling in the drop-out rate and evidence that only a third of students would know how to access mental health services.

Students have reported finding it difficult to access NHS mental health services away from home. This may be because they are not registered with a GP practice at their University home.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: Greater Manchester is using devolution to rethink and re-prioritise mental health support for young people.

“We recently became the first place to publish waiting time information for children and young people’s mental health and introduced independent counselling into schools with our ground-breaking mental health support programme. We are now becoming the first place to introduce a new way of supporting university students.

“Our unique devolution deal gives us the ability to rethink the way we help young people navigate an increasingly complex world. The transition to university life can be tough for many students, with around one in five 16-24-year-olds experiencing depression or anxiety, so I’m pleased that Greater Manchester is taking a lead nationally when it comes to mental health provision for students.

“With one of the largest university populations in the country here in Greater Manchester, we have a collective duty to ensure that compassionate, responsive mental health services are available to all who need them, whenever they need them. When things are tough, we want everyone who lives, works, and studies in Greater Manchester to have access to the best possible support and guidance. This kind of service has the potential to make a real difference for our students, and I hope it can become a model for other places to follow.”

 

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Around 100,000 university students live and study in Greater Manchester – the largest number of any city region in England.

The service will help students to achieve their academic potential while avoiding problems such as dropping out.

Students will receive a standard assessment from their university’s welfare service and, if appropriate, referred to the specialist centre closest to them.

They will also be managed and supported by their university’s welfare service following discharge from NHS treatment.

Neil Thwaite, chief executive of Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust, said: “Some students will need extra mental health support while they settle into independent living and their studies.

“Our dedicated team of professionals will be on hand to provide care and treatment to students who are referred by the universities’ wellbeing services and to students with pre-existing conditions.

“As a trust, we are proud to offer this bespoke mental health service to the university community of Greater Manchester.”

University of Manchester student Zahra, who was among dozens of students to give their views about what the new service should provide, is to appear at the event in a short film.

She says in the film: “I think this service is really important to stop students dropping out of university due to struggling with their mental health. This service is a really important part in saying: ‘You can do this and we’ll support you while you are here.’ ”

Follow @GMMH_NHS on Twitter for updates on NHS mental health services in Greater Manchester

 

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