Today Jenny Rathbone AM led Assembly Members in welcoming the launch of the National Assembly for Wales Student Mental Health Pledge, supported by Time To Change Wales and Mind Cymru. It represents a strong commitment to students across Wales that their wellbeing is an issue high on the political agenda in time for World Mental Health Day on October 10th.
Across the United Kingdom, statistics around student mental health are alarming. For example, of the 2015 intake, 26,000 students left in their first year, increasing for the third year in a row, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). This has come in light of a 500% increase in the last decade of first-year students disclosing a mental health condition (Institute for Public Policy Research).
Signed by 59 of 60 Assembly Members, the Pledge seeks to raise awareness of this issue, and promote further discussion around how best to respond to it with four main commitments:
- Promote the positive wellbeing of every student in Wales
- Work with a range of ambassadors to promote positive public health messages around mental health
- Actively tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect
- To stay aware of current trends and statistics to monitor the state of student mental health across Wales and the wider United Kingdom.
“I am proud to present the Student Mental Health Pledge. It is vital that student wellbeing is a top priority for the National Assembly for Wales so that no student feels like they are left behind. To have so many Assembly Member sign is a demonstration that this is truly a cross-party issue,” Jenny said.
She added: “University services across Wales do tremendous work in supporting students throughout their studies, and we need to see this work built on by further collaboration between the institutions, the NHS and the voluntary sector. Hopefully this will lead to much more positive change.”
Simon Jones, Head of Policy and Influencing at Mind Cymru, said: “We welcome the Pledge and it is positive that so many Assembly Members have signed, demonstrating their commitment to supporting and improving the experiences of people with mental health problems at our universities.”
“Going to university can be a hugely exciting time for many, but it can also be daunting. Student life can have its own set of pressures, such as leaving existing social networks and trying to establish new ones, stretched finances, exam stress and moving away from home, often for the first time. It’s really important that everyone experiencing a mental health problem – including students – gets the support they need, when they need it.”