Student Mental Health

University of Manchester Launches Online Course for Staff
Manchester (UK), June 2018 - The University of Manchester has launched a new online eLearning course designed to help its staff respond to signs of mental illness in students.

The course comes at a time in which a recent Universities UK report has said that student mental health provision risked "failing a generation", and some students may be "slipping through the gaps" between university and NHS provision.

The student mental health course will allow staff across the University, whatever their role, to learn useful information about student mental health and also to learn some basic skills around managing students who are presenting signs of mental ill health or are at risk.

With a staff population of around 12,000, the eLearning course will enable the University to scale their mental health training for staff while keeping the content highly engaging and illustrative through the use of video content. The course contains videos that were made on the Manchester campus, and the University helped design all the content.

Sarah Littlejohn, Head of The Counselling Service at The University of Manchester, described how student mental health is becoming a key priority for the University: "The University is investing time, thought, and resources in the entire area of student mental health, both in terms of the support it offers to students and also to staff in their roles. This course is a clear example of that and is a reflection of our general approach to supporting students and being responsive to mental health difficulties.

"The mental health of students is a key concern for all universities. In order to raise the awareness and the skills level of staff across the University, we needed training that had scale and reach. Although we offer face-to-face workshop training, we could never hope to reach the numbers of people that we aimed to, so we wanted to supplement the more intensive face-to-face training with the broader availability of online learning.

"Whether you’re a student support office worker, an academic, working in residences, or involved in security, any of the people in contact with students can encounter those struggling with their mental health and will need to learn how to respond."

David Marshall, Founder of Marshall E-Learning, explained the impact the online course will have for the University, saying, "The University now has an innovative product that offers staff and students at the University of Manchester something they haven't had before. The course is going to form part of a suite of learning modules for training around supporting students with their mental health. And with a large staff population, only eLearning can offer the reach and scale needed for an issue such as student mental health.

"For every student who actually does attend the counselling service, there may be many more who feel isolated and even drop out of university, so it is student-facing staff of all kinds who will benefit from being able to detect and respond to some of the early signs of mental health issues in a student.

"In general, we have seen a big increase in universities investing in eLearning courses for students rather than staff – the overriding theme is pastoral support. As such we have worked carefully with a number of institutions to prepare smartphone compatible tutorials that will support the efforts universities are already making to support students".

The script and key learning points for the student mental health course was developed by members of the University of Manchester team with technical expertise, including the videos and eLearning tool, provided by Marshall E-Learning.

The resource makes use of video clips illustrating a range of possible responses to common presenting difficulties, and learners are given the opportunity to compare how different interactions might go and consider their potential outcomes. A written commentary on the interchange highlights the key decision points involved in managing these conversations well.