Keele awarded prestigious grant to lead student mental health project

A regional partnership led by Keele University has been awarded £750,000 from the Office for Students (OfS) to develop an integrated community approach to mental health and wellbeing for students in further and higher education, in collaboration with Staffordshire University, as part of a £2.2 million project.

The universities will be working in partnership with local colleges and authorities, police and NHS providers, to effectively support students’ transition into, through and out of higher education, especially those with circumstances that may contribute to them being more vulnerable to mental health issues. It is hoped this will lead to new and innovative approaches that can be applied nationally in order to positively impact on student mental health, and as such a toolkit will be produced and shared across the further and higher education sectors.

Keele University’s community approach to mental healthcare is one of only ten projects to be awarded funding by the OfS, an independent public body sponsored by the Department for Education. The OfS funding will be supplemented by match funding from Keele and Staffordshire, together with financial support from all partners, with the project totalling £2.2million in total.

The funding is part of OfS’ major new programme to find innovative ways to combat a sharp rise in student mental health issues and spark a step-change in student support across the country.

Key priorities for the project include a connected training framework, interventions for at-risk
groups, a regional mental health campaign, and new multi-agency approaches to student support. The universities will introduce new activities and opportunities for engagement for both on- and off-campus students, increasing social cohesion and the opportunity for early intervention, and reducing the risk of isolation.

Through partnership working with the NHS, Keele and Staffordshire University will develop new and innovative approaches to assessing and referring students, allowing a more streamlined and sensitive approach to supporting students effectively in both emergency and planned situations. Both universities are already engaged with the Stoke-on-Trent Suicide Prevention Partnership and will develop a regional student-focused Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

Keele University Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan said: “Student mental health is a strong institutional priority for us at Keele, and a frequent topic on the agenda of both the executive team and the University Council as we develop a new institutional strategic plan, in which health and wellbeing is a key strand.

“It is extremely exciting for Keele to be leading this project with the support of the OfS and to be working in partnership with a regional network of university, college and NHS partners. We believe this project could have a transformative effect on the wellbeing and success of our own students and those of our locality and beyond."

Staffordshire University Vice-Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes said: “Supporting the mental wellbeing of our students, many of whom come from the local area and are important parts of local communities, is fundamental to ensuring they are successful in their studies and take advantage of the many opportunities that come with a university education. This successful bid follows on from the Student Minds Mental Health Charter event we held in March and will see us, together with Keele University and our wider partners, take a nationally-leading role in what is one of the most important issues for students and many others.”

The project will be working with regional partners including Stoke-on-Trent City Council; Staffordshire County Council; Staffordshire Police; North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust; Midlands Partnership Foundation NHS Trust; University Hospitals of North Midlands Foundation Trust; Stoke-on-Trent College; Stoke Sixth Form College; Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, and Sport Across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.