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Student mental health: Questions and answers

Here are the answers to the key questions that have been raised about student mental health and the university.

What is your wellbeing provision for students during Covid-19?

We know that this year looks very different for our students. The safety and wellbeing of all members of our community is our highest priority. For students who need to self-isolate, there is dedicated support, including practical help such as grocery deliveries, laundry facilities and parcels and post, but also wellbeing support where every student self-isolating is called by a member of the wellbeing team to check in and talk through guidance and support available, and a self-isolation helpline for students and their families to use if they need to.

This is part of our broader provision for students: we regularly inform them of wellbeing support service provision they can access from wherever they are – ranging from self-help resources and online masterclasses, to telephone, video and email therapy and face to face therapy where this can be offered safely. Students living in halls can also go to their residential tutor as a first point of contact for support.

A large number of safety measures have been put in place to ensure the study and living environment for students is Covid-secure, including an on-campus test and trace service. These are covered in the return to campus guide sent to all students at the beginning of the academic year. There is also regularly updated guidance on Covid-safety requirements.

Outside residences, there is also a programme of social activity, sports and support to enable students to interact safely.

What’s your policy on letting parents know of wellbeing concerns about their son / daughter at university?

We encourage students to involve family throughout their University life. For those students who present or are referred to our wellbeing support services and where there are significant wellbeing concerns, we ask for their permission to be able to liaise with their parents or emergency contacts when we know of vital wellbeing concerns. For those students who choose not to permit this, we must respect those wishes and their right to confidentiality. This is in line with Universities UK and Student Minds guidance.

If our Wellbeing Support team makes a clinical judgement that there is a vital threat to a student’s wellbeing, then we get in touch with the student’s parents or emergency contacts.

In William Bargate’s case, as he had not been in touch with our Wellbeing Support services and no concerns had been raised by or to teaching staff, then normal confidentiality rules applied - as young adults the University is obliged to respect the confidentiality of its students and not share academic, or any other information, about them with anyone else without their permission.

We are reviewing his case to see what lessons can be learned from this tragic case. These include looking at which circumstances act as trigger points for when our wellbeing team / academic departments get involved proactively, and looking at the experience of other universities.

How many cases of suicide have been recorded by the University?

We do not record cause of death for any member of our community. Where a coroner shares a report with us, we always consider whether there are any learnings for the University so that we can improve our mental health and wellbeing support.

What is the University’s review process following Will’s death?

Our wellbeing support services team is leading an incident review in line with Universities UK recommendations to support continuous quality improvement and be suicide-safer. We are looking to understand what happened and what lessons we can learn. This includes looking at which circumstances act as trigger points for academic departments and our wellbeing team to get involved more proactively, and - if so - how and when we communicate with students. This is an internal review but we are being supported by colleagues from the local groups, such as the Coventry Suicide Prevention Steering Group and the Coventry and Warwickshire Joint Suicide Prevention Multi-agency Group, of which we are active members. The review will report to the Registrar in the New Year.