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Student mental health: dealing with the transition from school to university

15 August 2018
Louise Honey

Louise Honey

Programme Development Manager
Student Minds

While becoming a student in higher education can be full of new experiences and marks the start of an exciting journey, many students struggle with the initial transition from school or college into university.

In response to this challenge, Student Minds has collaborated with Canadian organisation TeenMentalHealth.Org (led by internationally-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Stan Kutcher) to ensure that this period of transition is met with information, support and guidance through the development of two new online resources for UK students.

The release of A-level results, and accepting university offers, is the realisation for many students that they are about to embark on a very different life stage, and begin (often for the first time) living independently. The two new resources – the first publications of their kind in the UK – are now freely available to students and educators at schools and universities and can be used during this time of preparation and decision making, as students accept offers or seek a place through the clearing process.

These resources support many of the priorities set out in Universities UK's Step Change framework, aimed at supporting university leaders to help embed good mental health across all university activities. This includes working with schools, colleges and parents to support students during transition points.

It's natural for students to feel nervous or overwhelmed during the first few weeks at university, and it can be a while before they feel like they've found their feet. This is where these resources can really benefit those working with students in colleges, sixth forms and universities.

The resources have been created as a way to help students and staff address some important things that aren't usually talked about, but are important to think about at this transition point. Practical tips such as ways to adjust to independent learning and how to manage your time around exams and assignment deadlines, sit alongside other complex issues such as how their identity might be forming or changing and how this could affect relationships and friendships.

Information is written in language aimed at students. 'Know Before You Go' provides age-appropriate guidance to young people before they leave school or college, and 'Transitions' contains information to support the first few years in higher education.

The guides contain a range of resources, with student testimonials and links to blog posts to show real-life stories from those wanting to share their experiences and advice. There is specific advice such as budget planners or healthy eating plans, while there is also more general advice on mental health, giving examples of symptoms, warning signs and prevalence. Both guides signpost to further sources of information and support and highlight what to do if in crisis.

The guides provide a single source for students and a useful place to signpost people when they need that information or could use some tips. You might not need to know what is on every page and that's okay. But we hope you'll keep it in on hand, as there is likely to be something in there that will be helpful to students at some point over the next few years.

Educators and students can access the resources and use them in a variety of ways that work for them. Initial feedback suggests the resources are being used flexibly and in a number of different situations. For example, for student mentors to be able to provide practical advice to students before they enrol. Or disseminated via student accommodation providers and other university spaces to help students and staff.

Student Minds will be seeking feedback and looking to improve these resources over the next academic year. So please let us know what you think so that we can help improve this important advice and support for students and universities.


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