Monday, 3 April 2017

Student Mental Health Support

In January we were approached by staff in Student Services to help them with their review of student mental health support. The problem statement that we agreed was “Students have difficulty in accessing appropriate support and the support provided is fragmented and not tailored to the individual. There is a lack of appropriate information sharing between the various service providers. The support provision is often reactive because it does not balance prevention and support and lacks definition of capacity both in terms of service “internally” and also in links to other agencies.”

Last week we ran a five-day event to unpick the problems and identify an action plan for moving forward. Key deliverables for the project are:
  • Meaningful and ethical data/evidence base of need and demand to shape decision making for service provision (to include student well-being data). At the moment it is in a variety of systems
  • A simple, consistent and straightforward process that enables access to the right support
  • A process that delivers tailored and appropriate support for students
  • A process informed by clear boundaries for support
  • A set of diagrams/words that enables the information to be understood by staff and students
  • A process that supports Out of Hours processes (a separate university project) to input/output
We used service blueprinting to unpick the problems and then ran a number of scenarios through the blueprints to ensure that we all understood the services provision form the student perspective as well as unpicking the back office processes.

Moving on from this we had a successful session where we created a vision for the future. Moving to the practical process proved trickier, people had difficulty determining what could practically be done over the next few months and there was also some cynicism as to whether the future vision would ever be implemented. After considering a number of options, the team agreed that they would do the following things (to be achieved over the summer period, and in place by for start of term):
  • Produce and use a shared toolkit for all MH student support practitioners
  • Request resource for supporting students with lower level needs (wellbeing advisers)
  • Share information across services - use Titanium System initially
    (Update: we subsequently learned that this will need to happen at a different point)
  • Shared triage across services predicated on use of the shared toolkit and shared computer systems
  • Sharing of risk assessments (if it changes, inform the relevant person)
  • Sharing the management plan developed post risk assessment
  • Provide MH Support Services to students who are on Leave of Absence
  • Create a task and finish group to collectively use the existing data to identify demand across services, and peaks in the academic cycle for individual services
  • Establish a reflective practice group for CWaG, Mental Health Advisers, Disability advisers, Counselling Staff, Student Advice Centre and UHS
  • Better communication to Personal Tutors about access to services
  • Leaflet and webpage cull
  • New publications/webpages to have a more joined up approach and branding
  • Include staff from other MH services on team building activities (reflective practice group initially)
The group also made the following recommendations:
·       Review regulation 26
·       A building/place for MH Support service, sensitive location and environment to reflect easy access for students with anxiety
·       Services organised according to need rather than staff group
·       Students at the centre of care (easy access)
·       Multidisciplinary team approach to mental health support. Mental Health Adviser role having a clearer position within psychological/wellbeing services
·       Clear strategy about what the university is trying to achieve in order to define our services
·       Good governance
·       Initial assessment by experienced/expert staff who signpost/refer accordingly
·       Targets for outcome rather than output or throughput
·       Authority to ask for incorrect support information (web, leaflets etc) across the university to be cleared
·       Clear communication channels between academic departments and MH provision to address concerns about a student
·       More hours of access, not just 9-5
·       Reduction in no. of computer systems in use
·       Text reminders for all appointments
·       Pre-arrival process for new students (with a diagnosis) to ensure that support is in place on arrival. Then check/improve support plan once student arrives
·       Joined up and proactive work during Intro Week to support new students and ensure access timely access to the right services

My personal learning from the event continues. I knew that this was going to be challenging and emotive, that people’s past experiences were going to impede their ability to move forward. Mitigations that were in place included a strong and supportive sponsor, who gave a clear and encouraging welcome speech, regular updates to the sponsor who supported the direction of travel, comprehensive ground rules for the workshop. Instinct tells me that the facilitator role could have done more, we collect feedback from the team and sponsor, this will be useful for ongoing evaluation and reflection.

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