The student movement within Northern Ireland has come together to create a mental health action plan to demand better outcomes for students and their mental health.
Read Full Mental Health Action Plan here
The action plan stems from students being left behind in government publications about mental health. Publications have included mentions of student mental health but have not engaged actively with students about what support they need.
Commenting ahead of University Mental Health Day, Wednesday 4 March, UUSU President, Collette Cassidy, said:
"Over the last few years we have witnessed how mental health has impacted on our society, particularly the student population. We are in the middle of a mental health crisis with Covid-19 exacerbating it even further. We have faced no bigger test on our mental health than we have this year, so it is important that on University Mental Health Day we take action. And, there is no better place to start then with the introduction of our Student Mental Health Action Plan."
UUSU along with the support of NUS-USI and other Students’ Unions across Northern Ireland urge the Assembly to engage with Students’ Unions to improve student mental health services. Together, we have created a live document, that should be used inform the Mental Health Strategy for NI in order to ensure that our politicians are working on the matters that mean most to students and their mental health. This means that as the years go by, and the climate changes, other Students’ Union Officers can change the document, to remove or add sections that best suit the provision that is needed.
Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Interim Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland added:
“The transition to college or university should be an exciting time, a time of opportunity, however too many students find it overwhelmingly stressful and the new environment can bring pressure that has a mental health impact. It is vital that we nurture our students and support them to flourish, and this means raising awareness, having the right services and structures to promote wellbeing and treatments to help those who are struggling. I very much welcome the Student Mental Health Action Plan, it is a vision and plan for awareness, prevention and excellent support services. Its implementation would undoubtedly lead to an improvement in student wellbeing, which will translate into a stronger more confident graduate population, who will be best placed to make Northern Ireland a better, brighter place.”
The action plan comprises of eight key asks, including a rollout of accessible services, funding, and an increase in overall inclusion of the student movement in mental health discussions and planning.
Highlighting the importance of student mental health as a national issue, affecting students from all walks of life, NUS-USI President, Ellen Fearon, said:
“For too long, the student mental health crisis across higher and further education has been left on the back burner by government and students have suffered. During this pandemic, we’ve seen students face more financial and academic pressure than ever before and there’s been an increase in demand for student wellbeing services. We need urgent and effective action from government with long term impacts. UUSU’s Student Mental Health Action Plan has the potential to implement real, comprehensive, and national change that shapes how we view and treat student mental health in our society. I urge students and political representatives from across NI to engage with this campaign and support our students.”
Moving forward, to monitor implementation of the Student Mental Health Action Plan, the VP Sport and Wellbeing and VP Jordanstown for UUSU said:
“As a student movement, we want this message to go as far and wide as possible, so if you want to see better provision for student mental health in Northern Ireland, contact your local politician, contact Robin Swann, and any other Member of the Assembly that has any inclusion within mental health conversations. Let’s make sure students aren’t given token gestures, we want real, meaningful, and long-term change.”