Mental Health Difficulties.
Produced by a Student Mental Health Strategy working group April
Helping Students with Mental Health Difficulties
This document has been produced to assist staff in their dealings
1with students with mental health difficulties. It aims to:
; Promote awareness about behaviours and characteristics that
may indicate that a student is suffering serious mental distress
; Provide guidance to staff about how to respond to such
; Give information about where the member of staff and/or the
student may turn for help
Definitions of Mental Health
Mental health issues can be seen as being on a continuum between ‘relatively mild anxieties and frustration associated with everyday life, and severe problems affecting mood and the ability to think and
1 We are grateful to the University of Leeds for allowing us to draw upon their booklet
nd‘Helping Students with Mental Health Difficulties’ 2 Edition, and similarly to the
Universities of Loughborough, Leicester and Nottingham.
2communicate rationally’. A person’s mental health can fluctuate
between these and is therefore, not static. Managing stress plays an
3important part in mental health; the recent RAPSS report notes that
there are particular times within the student experience that are linked to an increased risk of deterioration, for example, periods of assessment and exams, and during periods of transition.
If a student is experiencing mental health difficulties there will often be warning signs. Some are more obvious than others:
; Loud, aggressive or agitated behaviour
; Erratic or unpredictable behaviour
; Lack of self care; poor personal hygiene, unkempt appearance or
significant weight changes
; Under-performance in academic work; frequent lateness/absence
from classes, missing deadlines or poor concentration
; Substance/alcohol abuse. Changes in eating habits
; Very withdrawn or unusually quiet behaviour
If you are worried about a student
Some students will conceal their difficulties from others. If you are worried about a student the first step would usually be to talk to the student to find out more about their current situation. At this stage you may find that the student is already in contact with appropriate services such as their GP, counsellor or mental health worker. Showing your concern may help to reassure the student and allay your own worries. You may also wish to speak to others who know the student to see if they also have concerns about their well-being. In the majority of cases
2 IRISS Project (1995) Students and Mental Health Resource Pack. Rethink/National Union of Students. London
3 Stanley, N,. Mallon, S, Bell, J. Hilton, S. Manthorpe, J. (2007) Responses and Prevention in Student Suicide. University of Central Lancashire.
pointing the student towards appropriate sources of help may be all that is needed. If you are not reassured by your contact with the student you could contact one of the following for guidance:
; University Health Service x 22100
; University Counselling Service x 24134
; Student Services Information Desk (SSiD) x 21299
; Student Support and Guidance Critical Support Team x 24321
; Disability and Dyslexia Support Service x 21303
; Multi Faith Chaplaincy x 28923
If you wish, this can be done initially without identifying the student.
Bear in mind the following:
; The most helpful approach is a collaborative one that involves the
student. Often, departments and student services can work
together to develop a support network for the individual
; Whilst some services will need to operate within their codes of
confidentiality, a student will sometimes give consent for relevant
information to be shared
; Be clear about your own limits both in terms of the amount of
confidentiality you can offer the student and of the amount of
time you have available. Be aware of getting out of your depth,
offering more than is appropriate, and of role confusion
; Do not hesitate to seek advice from other sources
When a student will not accept help
In such situations there is little you can do other than to ensure that the student has the relevant information about sources of help. Note your
4concerns in the student’s file and inform senior staff in the
department so that others are aware of the situation.
On very rare occasions a student’s behaviour may indicate that there is a serious threat to their health and safety. For example:
; Suicidal tendencies
; Serious self harm
; Risk of harm to others
; Acute alcohol or substance addiction
; Hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices) or holding fixed irrational
; A complete lack of functioning academically or in other areas of
; No sense of reality.
In such situations the need to intervene will be more urgent. If the student will accept help, refer them to the University Health Service, either by supporting them to make contact or ringing them yourself and if need be accompanying them to the surgery. If the student will not accept help, phone the University Health Service on x 22100, the University Counselling Service on x 24134, or the Student Services Critical Support Team on x 24321 to seek advice. If there is an immediate danger of harm to self or others call 4444 straight away to alert security staff.
4 Remember that under the Data Protection Act the student may be allowed to see these notes. See http://www.shef.ac.uk/cics/dataprotection/pip.html for further
Although staff are not bound by the same codes of confidentiality as a GP or counsellors, if you wish to share information about a student you should first seek their consent.
How can you respond to a If the student will accept help:
student with Mental Health
; Contact the University Health difficulties? Service x22100 or their GP if
not registered with UHS and ask to speak to the Duty Doctor
; Contact the University Counselling Service x24134 and ask to speak to the Duty Counsellor
; Alternatively, support the student in referring
her/himself to one of the above
; Ask the student for permission to contact the service to confirm that contact has been made
; In rare cases where there is immediate danger to self or others, call the Emergency Contact on (0114 222) 4444
Is the problem urgent?
Do you think that:
•There is a risk of suicide?
•The student may be at risk
of hurting her/himself or
If the student will not accept help:
•The student is seriously
•Contact UHS x22100 (Duty
physically ill? NDoctor) or UCS x24134 (Duty
Counsellor) yourself and seek O Can you help?
advice •She/he has stopped Offer targeted and appropriate •In exceptional circumstances, •Do you have the time and/or
support. GP’s can visit without the functioning the skill? YES This might include: patient’s agreement •Do you know who to consult academically or in other areas for advice?
N•Listening to the student’s of life?
concerns O Refer the student to a support •Offering practical advice service
•Arranging a network of support •If you are unsure which service If the student does not want any
for the student through UHS, the student requires, ask either help make a note of your
UCS, DDSS, SSG, and through UCS or DDSS (mental health concerns in the appropriate files
the relevant academic advisor) for guidance
department •Consult the list of services UHS (University Health Service) available in this booklet UCS (University Counselling Service)
DDSS (Disability and Dyslexia Support Service)
8 SSG (Student Support and Guidance)
The University of Sheffield Support Services
University Health Service
53 Gell Street, Sheffield, S3 7QP Tel No: 0114 22 22100 (24 hours) Fax No: 0114 22 22123
Mon to Thurs 8.45am - 6.00pm Friday 8.45am - 5.00pm
Mon to Fri 8.45am – 5.00pm
When the surgery is closed telephone calls will be directed
automatically to the Doctors' Out of Hours Collaborative.
University Counselling Service
36 Wilkinson Street, Sheffield, S10 2GB Tel No: 0114 22 24134
Fax No: 0114 22 24090
Mon to Tue 9.00am – 5.30pm
Wed 9.00am – 4.00pm
Thurs 9.00am – 6.30pm
Fri 9.00am – 4.00pm
Mon to Fri 9.00am – 4.00pm
Disability and Dyslexia Support Service The Hillsborough Centre, Alfred Denny Building
Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN Tel No: 0114 22 21303
Dedicated Text lines: 0114 22 21320/21321 Fax No: 0114 22 21373
Mon 9.00am – 5.00pm
Tues 9.30am – 5.00pm
Wed 10.30am – 5.00pm
Thurs 9.30am – 5.00pm
Fri 9.00am – 5.00pm