Student Mental Health Strategy 2017-2020


The University will take a whole institution approach to developing a University community that enables all students, undergraduate, postgraduate and postgraduate research, to thrive and realise their potential. The University community will be a supportive, inclusive, well-informed, healthy and responsive environment that will promote positive mental health as well as providing excellent support services for students requiring help to address mental health issues.


  • In developing a strategy and action plan to realise this vision, the University will involve staff and students at every stage and will link appropriately to the Staff Mental Health Strategy.
  • The University will work in partnership with relevant external agencies including the Students’ Union, NHS, CCG, local and national charities and schools.
  • A holistic view will be taken across several policy areas including Learning and Teaching, Research, Accommodation and Campus Services, Safeguarding, Widening Participation, Estates, Student Recruitment, Health and Safety and Equality and Diversity to ensure that mental health considerations become embedded across University business.
  • The strategy will be reviewed regularly and progress reported annually to University Council.


 Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people in England per annum. Within Universities, there is increasing demand for counselling services and increasing awareness and demand for a range of mental health support across student populations. 75% of chronic adult mental illness starts before the age of 24. Mental health disclosures amongst students have increased five-fold in the last ten years. There is a need to rethink mental health provision and to adopt a whole system approach that will address prevention, self-care, early intervention and support for those experiencing problems. Within Sheffield there has been a marked increase in academic departments of students presenting with mental health concerns to personal tutors and the Counselling Service has seen significant growth in demand for its services.

The new SAMHS service (Student Access to Mental Health Services) has been introduced in response to the growth in demand and student feedback. This is providing a single, central point of triage to direct students effectively to the service they need. This service has streamlined student access to support. Ultimately, however, it does not lessen demand.  In order to address student need, it is necessary to progress a whole system approach, giving new, increased emphasis to preventative activity and support, to enable earlier resolution of issues and the creation of a healthy University community with the ability to discuss and promote positive mental health.  

The strategy is constructed with six overarching aims. These describe the aspiration of what we would set out to achieve. Detailed action plans, with workstreams, targets and timescales will be created for each strategic aim.  

Strategy Aims

1. An informed and open community

To create a University community which is informed about mental health and which encourages openness, recognising good mental health, alongside good physical health and wellbeing, as an important requirement for successful learning and a positive student experience.  This would interact with the Staff Strategy for Mental Health and Wellbeing. Within this

  • To raise awareness across the community of mental health issues and considerations.
  • To foster discussion on mental health to support de-stigmatisation and encourage open conversation.
  • To provide introductory training for staff in mental health matters to enable informed discussion.

2. A community that supports positive mental health

To create a University community which supports positive mental health and the development of skills to value and recognise good mental health and early signs of problems. As part of this, to encourage early disclosure and early engagement with support services. The community will encourage the recognition of mental health as being as important as physical health. Student activities may include:

  • Student peer support
  • Postgraduate Research student specific activities
  • Mentoring
  • Group support activities
  • Self-care and use of online resources
  • Championing the role of activities and sports
  • Addressing barriers to participation in sport and physical activity
  • Social prescribing (e.g. societies, buddying, volunteering)

 3. Effective, easy to access support services

To provide a range of support services, clearly sign-posted and easy to access, for those with mental health needs. To include:

  • Student Access to Mental Health Support – central triage service
  • University Counselling Service
  • Disability and Dyslexia Support Service
  • University Health Service
  • Strong links to NHS provision and clear pathways for access
  • Clear out of hours support encompassing University, charity and NHS provision.
  • Student Advice Centre (within Students’ Union)

 4. Inclusive, supportive learning community

To offer an inclusive and supportive learning community for students that would see positive mental health embedded in University life and a clear offer described to prospective students of the learning community they would be joining

  • Ensure the mental health support services offer is very clear in student recruitment information, with emphasis on positive mental health support
  • Embed mental health considerations in the design of research, learning and living spaces on campus and in residences
  • Embed mental health considerations in the development of PGR policy and learning and teaching policy including programme level view and Student Lifecycle Project.

5. Appropriately trained staff

To ensure appropriate training for non-clinical staff engaged in supporting students with mental health needs across the institution (including Security, Facilities, Faculty and Professional Services colleagues). This would interact with the Staff Strategy for Wellbeing and Mental Health.

  • Define appropriate training levels for each staff category
  • Define appropriate training providers
  • Maintain records on completion and updating of training

6. Evaluation and Monitoring

To regularly review support services (including wait times and user satisfaction). To monitor incidents, track trends and maintain robust information on mental health-related events. To remain abreast of sector developments and good practice.  To regularly review strategy.

  • Annual review of student support services to measure efficacy
  • Log and systematically review mental health incidents for potential learning
  • Benchmark against other institutions
  • Maintain knowledge of sector best practice and guidance

Related Policies

  • Student Recruitment and Widening Participation
  • Safeguarding Policy
  • Human Resources strategy
  • Learning and Teaching Strategy
  • Estates Strategy
  • Our Commitment

Legal Framework

  • Equality Act 2010
  • Safeguarding guidance
  • Higher Education and Research Act 2017
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974


  • UUK ‘#stepchange Higher Education Mental Health Working Group’, September 2017
  • Student Resilience: Exploring the Positive Case for Resilience, May 2017, Unite Students
  • UUK ‘Student Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education: good practice guide’ February 2015
  • UPP: ‘Student living: collaborating to support mental health in university accommodation’
  • ‘Not By Degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities’, September 2017, Craig Thorley
  • HEPI ‘The Invisible problem? Improving students’ mental health’ Poppy Brown, September 2016
  • Guidance: ‘Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing’ Public Health England, March 2015

Approved by Council: November 2017