We won't donate to Bristol University until mental health demands are met

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Context:

  • Counselling waiting times for students deemed by GPs to have low-risk mental health needs can be as much as 6 weeks, and are often longer.
  • Students with complex mental health conditions can also face delays in receiving psychiatric assessments and treatment which can lead, in the meantime, to inaccurate diagnoses by GPs and potentially dangerous prescriptions. At the moment, only two part-time psychiatrists are available to carry out such work.
  • Cycles of counselling are now frequently capped at four sessions, after which any further counselling will require the student to return to the GP for another assessment, and another application for counselling to be processed. This can take a long period of time during which the student may receive no care. Many students have said that four weeks is not long enough for the important relationship of trust and confidence to be established between the student and the counsellor.
  • Many personal tutors see their pupils less than once a year, which means that huge numbers of students fail to forge a meaningful relationship of trust and support with any member of university staff.
  • Changes to pastoral support in Halls and the Temple Quarter expansion may result in students being geographically isolated from support staff.

Demands:

  1. The University must have a plan for how key staff will develop personal relationships of trust and support with students. This is particularly pertinent to academic tutors and staff working in Halls of Residence.
  2. All student-facing staff must be trained in how to respond to students suffering from poor mental health, especially those who have been subjected to sexual abuse.
  3. The Student Counselling Service must be expanded so that cycles contain a minimum of six sessions, and this number should be easily extended by the counsellor, if judged appropriate, without the hassle of re-application.
  4. Counsellors should also be able to refer students on to further services, rather than sending the student back to the GP.
  5. All investment in mental health support should at least grow proportionally with any increase to student numbers.
  6. Any such expansion, such as the Temple Quarter, and the new Halls in the city centre, should be accompanied by a rigorous analysis of the potential impact on student wellbeing - both for those new students and the students who might be affected by the consequent strain on student services.
  7. Further funding for second tier support, in the form of full-time employed psychiatrists, so that students with complex mental health conditions can be properly assessed and start to receive the appropriate treatment without delay.
  8. Changes to the fitness-to-study policy so that no actions are taken which might leave the student feeling abandoned or punished by the university as a result of their mental health.

We, the undersigned, will not provide any financial support to the University of Bristol until all of these demands are met.

 



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