“I can't believe a service like this exists” – GM student mental health service is hailed a success
The Greater Manchester Universities Student Mental Health Service – a partnership between Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) and the region’s five universities - has been hailed a success.
The service - which is open to students at the University of Bolton, University of Salford, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal Northern College of Music - provides mental health assessment, support and treatment to students, so that they can fulfil their university experience and ambitions.
The service works closely with existing university mental health services (such as University Counselling and Wellbeing services) and other mainstream mental health services (including voluntary and community organisations) to provide a joined-up approach to preventing students across the region from ‘slipping through the gaps’.
Dr Timothy Alnuamaani, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Greater Manchester University Student Mental Health Service team, GMMH, said:
“As students move into higher education, they may be embarking on independent living for the first time, moving to new cities and making new friends. They are often moving away from their usual support networks. They may also not be registered with a GP in the university area, or may move address frequently.
All of this means that students are more likely to slip through the gaps in the health system when they are at their most vulnerable. Our service has been successful in filling those gaps, and ensuring that students receive the right mental health support at the right time so they can go on to thrive.
The service launched in September 2019 - just months before the start of the COVID pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, the service stayed open and continued to offer face to face and online appointments. Support and treatment such as group therapy also continued online.
Since the launch, over 960 students have been supported by the service.
Student feedback from September 2019 up to the end of Jun 2022 found that 97% rated the staff as good or excellent, 97% rated the information given to them as good or excellent, and 98% rated the overall experience as good or excellent.
One student, who would like to remain anonymous, said:
“There is no doubt in my mind that the student mental health service has saved my life. When I started with the service, I felt completely lost and broken. It felt as if the service dropped out of the sky when I desperately needed it most.
“The staff were absolutely fantastic, I can't put it into words, but fantastic doesn't do them justice. To put a body back together is one thing, but a mind? That is far less textbook.
“I received nothing short of the support I needed, in the way I needed it, for as long as I needed it; right from being quite unwell, to being knee deep into recovery, all the way until I confidently felt I could hold my own.
“I am in utter disbelief of how much of a difference the support and therapy has made, and how it has in turn, enabled me to achieve things that weren't even on my radar because I thought they were out of reach.
“This year I did not just scrape through my finals, but I managed to perform better than I ever have. I ranked in the top 6% students in my subject in the country which I still cannot believe - it landed me my dream job. None of this would have been at all possible without the support from the service. I can't believe a service like this exists and I feel very lucky that I was able to access it.”
Simon Merrywest, Director for the Student Experience, University of Manchester, and Co-Chair of the Student Mental Health Service Board, said:
“This unique partnership has transformed the support available to students studying in Greater Manchester and in need of a range of interventions provided by the NHS.
Crucially, the service is part of a continuum of support with the universities’ mental health services with teams working together to agree an integrated care plan for each student.
“Evaluation of the service has already demonstrated significant benefits for students and university wellbeing teams, whilst simplifying referrals into the NHS and helping to secure more timely access to the most appropriate support”.
Greater Manchester was one of five regions to pilot a university model. Following this success, in June 2022, the Department for Education announced that up to £3 million will be invested over the next academic year to roll the model out across the country.
For more information about how a referral can be made into the Greater Manchester Universities Student Mental Health Service, visit the service information page.