A University of Leicester guide for personal tutors and other staff
Almost anyone working in a university may come into contact with a student who needs help with a psychological problem.
Knowing what to do can be crucial, but where can staff look for guidance?
Helping Students in Difficulty, a new publication from the University of Leicester Educational Development & Support Centre, lays down clear guidelines for coping with a range of such situations.
Written by Annie Grant, Director of the Centre, the publication is based on a three-year Student Psychological Health Project, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council (England), which aims to raise awareness and improve provision at the University for students experiencing mental health problems. The project began in 1997 and will be completed in August 2000.
While the guide has been written principally for personal tutors - one of the first ports of call for students in trouble - departments are encouraged to supply copies to all staff who come into contact with students, including secretaries, technicians, porters, security staff and cleaners.
It outlines the kinds of difficulties students may face and provides practical and clear advice to help staff respond to them. It also includes guidance on when a tutor should deal with the problems personally and when to refer the student to a member of the health, counselling or welfare services.
Among other information provided are lists of support services both in the University and in the community at large, and flow charts outlining the most helpful courses of action right from spotting the first signs of stress to guiding a student to the best source of help.
The guide drew from results of a 1998 survey that elicited 1,620 responses from students and 637 from university staff. Speaking of her delight at the reception the publication has had so far, Annie Grant paid tribute to the work of the Student Psychological Health Project Team.
She pointed out that the data revealed by the survey is unique in the UK and has attracted wide interest nationally and in the USA. "It is producing interesting and unexpected results. For instance we were surprised at the level of self-reported stress and also the fact that students aged 22-25 years are most likely to experience high stress levels in comparison to other students," she said.
The project team has also been examining the results to look at differences between genders, international and home students, and ethnic minorities and hopes to release more results in the summer.
Dr Grant emphasised the need for wide distribution of the guide: "Helping Students in Difficulty deals with issues that are pertinent to the work of all university staff. Most staff have come across students with difficulties of one kind or another. Our ultimate aim is to help students to make the most of their academic experience and to learn to manage any mental health problems they have.
"It is important that a student should go for help where he/she feels most comfortable. The guide is part of a complete support network, partly written material and partly personal contact. It aims to inform and to give students a choice of where they can go for help."
Note for editors: Further information is available from Dr Annie Grant, Director of the Educational Development and Support Centre, or from members of the Student Psychological Health Project Team: Telephone 0116 252 5230, facsimile 0116 252 5111, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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