‘Good but inaccessible’: We investigated new Lancs Uni mental health services

‘After my assessment, I was told I was only allowed four sessions’

During this time of uncertainty, university students need mental health support more than ever. However, many students are having mixed experiences with Lancaster University’s support system. It seems that the University has restructured its system in order to cater to more needs and reduce stress on single organisations. This seems to be creating confusion and delays for students seeking advice and help.

‘Services are good but inaccessible’

One on-campus student had a flatmate with an issue during a weekend and had a difficult encounter with the porters. They said the porters weren’t really responding” after they arrived and spoke to the student who was struggling. They then “told us they were being attention-seeking and to ignore them.”

The student continued to add: “We went to the porters in the morning to make sure the incident had been reported and the student had been referred and they assured us it had and [their flatmate] would be contacted by the wellbeing services as soon as possible.” The student confirmed that they “still hadn’t been in touch with anyone”. This student also noted that they feel “failed by the universities services” as they were told wellbeing services were not available on the weekend and they need to “wait until the next working day.”

However, they did say that the “services are good but inaccessible” after they had to reach out to the university’s services themselves rather than being referred by the porters and then they took a week to reply.

Another on-campus student told us that they experienced an “episode of sheer panic over the weekend” however when they contacted the porters they were “asked if I could hold off until Monday so the college team could deal with me.” The student reported feeling like they were an inconvenience to their college in a time when the new Tier 3 lockdown and COVID-19 guidelines have caused them “unexplainable feelings of loneliness and isolation” during their first year.

‘After my assessment, I was told I was only allowed four sessions’

The University’s system relies on passing and referral of mental health issues from the first point of contact, the porters, to other mental health support. From these accounts, it is clear that this can sometimes fail students when they really need support.

Another student was able to receive counselling but because of appointment limitations, lost their support and was now “feeling lost.” They told the Lancaster Tab: “After my assessment, I was told I was only allowed four sessions and that was it” this included the initial assessment “and then after that, I would have to get NHS help. The counselling waiting list is 20 weeks there.” 

‘We do not typically provide routine appointments at the weekend, instead we work closely with college Porters and Security on campus’

We reached out to the University for clarification of their system. They said: “We have invested in new services and extra appointment slots to make accessing support easier at this difficult time.

“We have also introduced a range of easy-access appointments called “Let’s Talk”, which are one-off appointments throughout the week, with no need for a referral. Students who present with urgent concerns will receive help and support on the day the referral is received.

“We do not typically provide routine appointments at the weekend, instead we work closely with college Porters and Security on campus to ensure students requiring urgent mental health support out of hours are able to access NHS services. Other out of hours services are also available, for example, Student Minds have developed Student Space to help students to find support during the coronavirus pandemic and Lancaster Students can also access CBT based self-help programme SilverCloud from anywhere at any time, without the need for an appointment via the website.”

This working week appointments system is where students are struggling. Obviously, mental health problems can occur at any time and it is disappointing to see that students may not be able to get the support that they need when these emerge. The Lancaster Tab has been alerted that students have had issues on weekends and have struggled to access support. This seems to stem from the fact that the Porters have become the first contact on weekends.

Services available to students

If you are struggling with mental health in these challenging times, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the services available; it is important to feel comfortable and safe at university. We have collected a selection of resources students can use if they are struggling, listed below.

 The NHS Mindsmatter site is providing a range of free psychological therapies to people aged 16 and over in Lancashire.

Main Lancaster University site with all links to all services available at the University.

Details of all of the healthcare services in Lancaster University. These are wider facilities that cater for all issues, not just mental.

 The university’s self-referral process, you fill out a form detailing your mental wellbeing, once complete the mental health team will get in touch with further help. 

 Silvercloud is a self-help programme promoted by the university to address and help you overcome personal struggles such as depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia and stress.

 Your college advisory team acts as a community to support you in a range of struggles from homesickness to financial anxieties. 

Lancaster University Counselling Services Email Address: [email protected]

Crisis Team Phone Number: 01524 550199

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