Student mental health and wellbeing support available at University of Birmingham

Student health and wellbeing is a key priority. We know that high quality, well-funded support services can make all the difference to a student’s experience of university and understand that it is an issue of great importance to students, parents and carers, as well as the University.

At the University of Birmingham we take a whole university approach to student mental health and wellbeing through an integrated network of professional support services, working together, under the leadership of the Academic Registrar.

The University provides an extensive network of student support that ranges from informal pastoral care to therapeutic practitioner interventions. Our support is non-clinical and non-medical.  Our  whole university approach encompasses prevention and developing personal resilience through, for example, University of Birmingham Sport, recognising the positive benefits of a healthy lifestyle to good mental health.  Our academic staff, including personal academic tutors, recognise and refer to professional wellbeing advisers and services and our strong partnership with the Guild of Students contributes to awareness raising campaigns and initiatives to promote wellbeing.  Staff in our library services and security services, for example, receive training as first line responders and our student support professionals are complemented by a team of Chaplains from the University’s Multi-Faith Centre who provide pastoral support to students of all faiths and none.

Our Services

Students can access support in 4 different ways to make sure they get to the right place for the help they need. These are:

1)      School and College Welfare Hubs – Each College has a dedicated wellbeing team comprising academic welfare tutors and professional wellbeing officers.  These are most often a first point of contact for students.  College wellbeing staff are trained to recognise and refer – providing an immediate response for personal and pastoral support and able to refer students to specialist services as needed.

2)      Student Services – The central Student Services team offers professional advice and support as well as coordinating our prevention, resilience and partnership working.  The team includes qualified mental health specialists, accredited counsellors and qualified wellbeing practitioners.  They provide both direct support and referrals to external specialist practitioners. This team also coordinates coping strategies, reasonable adjustments and mental health specialist mentoring.  Same day drop in services (someone to talk to) are always available, alongside extended therapeutic interventions where these are needed.

3)      Online and Self Help – The University provides a number of online sources of support, including general access online, self-help guides and a student support guide

4)      The Guild of Students - The independent Guild Advice Team operate like a Citizens Advice Bureau – expert and impartial advice on a range of student life support topics. The University and The Guild work together to promote the range of support options available and to raise awareness of campaigns and initiatives to promote wellbeing. The Guild of Students coordinates the Student Mentor scheme which is the advice and support system for students living in University-operated accommodation. A peer support scheme that provides a high level of training and professional staff oversight.

Our Expertise and Influence

The University is home to world-leading academic expertise in a range of relevant discipline areas that align with student mental health.  For example the Institute of Mental Health was established in 2018 to maximise the collaborative efforts of academics at the University, and builds on the strong existing partnerships with practice in the NHS, established through Birmingham Health Partners, Forward Thinking Birmingham, and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. Its objective is to ensure a sustained impact on public policy and practice, to translate research in neuroscience to improvements in treatment, and to improve the care and outcomes of those suffering from problems in their mental health, with a focus on interdisciplinary youth and life course mental health.

Our support professionals work closely with academic teams to evaluate the impact of our work and ensure a vital partnership between research and practice.

Our Partnerships

In addition to these services directly provided by the University, we have extensive partnerships with the NHS and local specialist services. We will signpost and support students to access these services where a particular specialist intervention is required, for example: 

  • The University Medical Practice - A fully independent and ‘normal’ general practice, located near to campus that caters mainly for students and staff.
  • GP surgeries.
  • Forward Thinking Birmingham - The provider of mental health services for people up to the age of 25 in Birmingham.
  • Pause – A city centre drop in centre, based in Digbeth, and run by the Children’s Society as part of Forward Thinking Birmingham.                                                  
  • Other NHS mental health, pop-up and drop in services.
  • Other “third-sector”, voluntary and specialist agencies.

Students will have their own personal support structures through family and friends and we recognise the importance of this partnership too. Parents and supporters have a valuable role in supporting students and we provide information to parents, family and friends about the support that is available within the University so that they can also signpost students to support when they need it. 

We will always respect the confidentiality of our students and encourage them to engage with their own support networks directly.  However, there may be occasions when we will decide to make contact with the emergency contact information that our students supply.  Such circumstances are rare, for example where a student is in crisis and their wellbeing is at severe risk. 

Our Staff

There are nearly 100 staff across the University involved in providing some kind of mental health and wellbeing support for our students. This includes 50 staff in the Colleges who have a dedicated role and responsibility as Welfare Tutors and Wellbeing Officers, 15 dedicated prevention and intervention specialist staff, including 6 therapeutic counsellors and a number of additional sessional therapeutic staff who work at peak times of the academic year. These core staff also work alongside 5 full time chaplains, a larger number of part time chaplains as well as advice and support staff in the Guild of Students.

The University also has an extensive programme of training for staff who provide support to students. Mental Health First Aid is given to staff in student facing roles including Security Services, University of Birmingham Sport, and Library Services. Recently we have trained an additional 50 staff in Mental Health First Aid and another 65 more in Suicide Awareness and Prevention as part of an ongoing programme of training and development for staff who play a role in supporting our students.

Investing and developing mental health and wellbeing services has been, and remains, a focus for us. Across the University, we are spending over £2.5 million, which includes an additional investment of £250,000 for the current academic year, on staff roles dedicated to student welfare, wellbeing and mental health.