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University and Guild look to revise ‘Critical Incident’ Procedure after tough year

By the start of the next academic year the University is looking to perform a review of its student critical incident process services following an unfortunately eventful year.

The Spring Term of this academic year saw two ‘critical incidents’ – a student suicide at Hunter Court and a second ‘critical incident’ at Mason.

There has also been an increase in the number of students who registered with the Counselling Service by 9.1 per cent.

Of the 930 who registered, 260 were due to anxiety or stress, 115 suffered from depression, 24 from trauma or abuse, 71 were deemed ‘severe’ in terms of risk of self-harm or suicide.

Chris Twine, the Director of Student Support and Development commented that following critical incidents: ‘a review always occurs and changes made in response to feedback from students, relatives, staff and external partners. The nature of each response will vary, but we acknowledge it is vital that all affected students know where to go for further help and support.’

One of the issues at hand is the need of greater synergy between the Guild’s run mentor systems, and University counselling.

Johnny Davis (Vice President for Student Welfare) pointed out that: ‘Incidents like these remind us that the Guild and University must continue to work together and improve communication to ensure that students get clear information to seek help.’

Redbrick performed a survey of 70 students that showed that while 59 students knew that the University provided counselling services, less than half knew how to access them.

Davis also stated that the roles of the Guild and University counselling would need to be further clarified, and wanted to question what role a student mentor should play in a ‘critical situation’.

The result of the insufficient specification of the mentors role in a critical incident lead to many going ‘above and beyond what can reasonably be expected of them’.

Furthermore the greater numbers of students who have registered with counselling has seen a greater strain on waiting times: 20 per cent of students stated that they felt they had to wait too long to wait to see a counsellor according to a recent survey conducted by The Counselling and Guidance Service.

Mr. Twine explained that emergency counselling appointments are offered on the same day they are requested, and the percentages of first appointments where students had to wait longer than 14 days fell from 16 per cent to 13 per cent.

However the increase in registered students has taken its toll as waiting times between eight and 14 days have seen a 3 per cent rise.

Jean Turner, Director of Counselling and Guidance, noted: ‘Whilst we provide a professional and responsive counselling service, we are always monitoring and reviewing our work in order to improve service delivery.’

The aim of Counselling and Guidance is to help all registered students ‘to be sufficiently free from psychological distress to achieve their potential’ as stated in their annual report; and in the purest sense they have not achieved this goal this year.

This is not necessarily something that Counselling or the Guild could have avoided. With a student population of 26,073 , and 71 students deemed to be a severe risk, the University have suggested that there will always be incidences that are out of reasonable control.

However, the next academic year will need to see change, and the University is already looking to review the system.

With high waiting times for a first meeting, with 67 per cent having to wait longer than three days, there is a greater need for both improved systems and coherency between the Guild and University services.

Research for survey carried out by Funmi Olutoye and Anna Hughes.


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