How the University of York is transforming the future of mental health

How the institution has adapted to rising challenges and is committed to changing the mental health landscape with innovative solutions like Togetherall.
Students in a lecture

Listening to the student voice

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the University of York established a set of contingency groups to discuss how various services across the university would need to change and adapt to support students during such unprecedented times. The contingency groups are represented by Executives and the student body, allowing students to bring their voices and ideas to the Exec Board. It soon became clear that mental health support was a key item in the students’ agenda and the University started looking at alternatives to help students overcome growing mental health challenges imposed by the pandemic.

A digital shift

The in-person mental health and wellbeing services previously offered by the university had to move online. The university made available a team of Mental Health Practitioners and Student Wellbeing Officers via phone and email to support registered students experiencing psychological or mental health difficulties. However, students expressed the need to have a digital platform that could be accessed outside of the standard office hours. Togetherall, with its 24/7 online community, was the perfect fit.

“When we knew we had to move everything online, we had to do it quickly. Thinking outside the box and listening to the student’s voice have been key to finding a successful resource. Togetherall, being CQC registered and professionally moderated, is reassuring for us, but its 24/7 support community is an invaluable asset for the students.”

Jo Hardy, Student Wellbeing Programme Manager, University of York

The University of York has so far seen over 3,500 community posts created in Togetherall and almost 3,000 registrations to the platform. Moreover, 61% of the students accessed Togetherall outside of 9am to 5pm which highlights the student’s need for an out-of-hours support.

A global mental health vision

The University of York’s commitment to transforming mental health on a local, national and international scale is accentuated by the fund initiative Mentally Fit York, which supports ground ideas and research around mental health.

A disbursement group made up of staff and students with a passion and experience in the mental health space advise on future allocations. An open process is also being developed for projects to apply for future funding.

So far, the initiative has not only granted access to all University of York students to Togetherall, but also supported Mental Health Nursing Scholarships, the Student Psychological Wellbeing cohort study and a range of mental health initiatives in the city of York.

“It is a great scheme to raise awareness of as many people as possible of issues surrounding good mental health,” said Councillor Carol Runciman, York’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health. “The funds raised will support some excellent work to train people in mental health awareness, as well as supporting scholarships for students going into mental health nursing.”

Helping students transition from college to university

Upon commissioning Togetherall, the University of York was also looking at ways to support York’s wider community, as well as their own student base.

“At York, we were thinking about those 18-year-olds just finishing college after a strange year and having to deal with the stress of the pandemic in addition to all the challenges of transitioning from college to university. We felt the responsibility to help them too.”

Jo Hardy, Student Wellbeing Programme Manager, University of York

The university invested in additional licenses to offer the Togetherall community to all York’s offer holders. This has given the possibility to hundreds of students who were coming out of college to get a 24/7 peer support community and receive mental health support if needed.

In the first month that Togetherall was extended to all York’s offer holders, the platform saw more than 100 registrations and almost 600 logins.

“The community aspect of Togetherall is so valuable because it’s the one thing that students haven’t been able to have during the pandemic. Being able to have somewhere to go to let go of your feelings is enormously important for someone who’s just been sitting in their room for the whole week.”

Jo Hardy, Student Wellbeing Programme Manager, University of York

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