Wednesday 4 March 2020

We Need Student-Led Action to Change the State of Student Mental Health

Michael writes about the Leaders movement and the importance of student-led change to improve the state of student mental health.  

- Michael

As a student with lived experience of mental health difficulties, and having witnessed lots of other students struggle with their mental health whilst at university, it is clear to me that change is needed. I believe we need radical, structural, and student-driven change across the whole university to reduce the numbers of students experiencing distress and support the whole university community to flourish. Recently I joined a group of passionate and inspirational students from across the country to film a campaign video calling for action and marking the launch of the Student Minds’ LEADers movement.

Too often, at the highest level of decision-making, student mental health policies, services and processes are developed and implemented without meaningful student engagement. It is time to stop university leaders making decisions for students without students, and empower the student community to LEAD the change in student mental health.

What is the LEADers Movement? 

The LEADers movement is a national movement driven by students and powered by Student Minds, which sets out a vision to organise and empower students, through grassroots action, to enact and inspire sustainable and far-reaching change which can enhance student mental health and wellbeing locally and nationally. The movement seeks to provide a platform to amplify the collective voices of students across the country, building power and uniting the whole university community to collaborate and change the state of student mental health.

The movement is grounded in the LEAD model of student coproduction: Listen, Empower, Act and Debrief. This involves listening to the whole student community to understand the context and experience of those directly affected; equipping and empowering students with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to lead impactful change; and sharing learning amongst students, staff, and stakeholders both locally and nationally.

Why is the LEADers Movement Important? 

Student-driven change can and will change the future of student mental health. Here’s how:

  1. Eliciting Experiences: Students are best placed to understand the student context and elicit peer experiences of university and/or mental health difficulties. These conversations are absolutely imperative for developing a clearer understanding of the specific challenges and support needs that students face, particularly certain underrepresented groups, in order to make appropriate provision in policy and practice. 
  2. Raising the Student Voice: Together we can amplify the student voice and have our voices heard. Supported by Student Minds, we can use the expertise from our collective experience to generate a powerful call for action that university leaders and policymakers simply cannot ignore! 
  3. Sharing Skills: We all have complimentary knowledge, skills, and networks which, together, can be mobilised, supported and enriched by professional staff to provide the tools to take effective action. There are already lots of brilliant examples of effective co-produced mental health strategies and initiatives that have been developed in partnership with students. 
  4. Impactful Action: Student-driven change that is attuned to diverse lived experience of those affected can ensure that student mental health initiatives are relevant, effective, and accessible to the needs of the whole student community.
  5. Learning for the Future: Establishing a coordinated platform can allow students to share their learning and achievements amongst each other and key stakeholders, to both sustain momentum for long-term change and demonstrate positive impact to decision-makers. 

By empowering students to LEAD, change is possible. Support and donate to the LEADers movement this University Mental Health Day as we create student-charged change locally and nationally. Together, students can LEAD the change in student mental health.

Find out more about the Leaders Movement and donate to power student led change today! 

I’m Michael and I’m the editor of the Student Minds Blog. I’m a PhD student at Durham University studying student mental health and wellbeing. I write for Student Minds to share my own experiences of mental health difficulties and advocate change to improve the state of student mental health.

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