Thank you for contacting me about the mental health of university students.
Every suicide is a tragedy. The Government is committed to doing all it can to prevent these devastating events which we know have a profound and lasting impact on family and friends.
I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Harry Armstrong Evans. I note the petition calling for new rules, called ‘Harry’s Law’, regarding the suicide of higher education students. When a petition reaches the threshold of 10,000 signatures, the Government will respond to the petition. I look forward to reading the Government’s response as and when this petition receives 10,000 signatures. However, I would like to assure you that the Government is fully committed to supporting the mental health of university students.
It is a high priority for the Government that students get effective mental health and wellbeing support, and that action is taken to prevent future tragedies. The Department for Education expects all universities to take active steps to prevent suicides, to intervene and support students at risk, and to deal sensitively when a tragedy occurs. The Government continues to work closely with the Office for Students (OfS) and the higher education sector to promote and fund effective practice which ensures that students are well supported.
For example, the Government supports the Suicide Safer Universities framework, led by Universities UK and Papyrus. This helps university leaders prevent student suicides and better support students and families with bereavement. Its approach has been widely adopted and is a key component of the University Mental Health Charter led by Student Minds.
To ensure that all students have access to dedicated mental health support no matter where they study, the Department asked the OfS to fund Student Space, a mental health and wellbeing online platform for students, with up to £3.6 million invested so far. It has been accessed by over 250,000 students since its launch in August 2020.
The OfS has allocated an additional £15 million in the 2022/23 financial year to help address the challenges to student mental health posed by the transition to university and to support better joined up working with NHS services. This funding targets those students in greatest need of such services, including vulnerable groups and hard to reach students.
The Government is also investing at least £2.3 billion of extra funding a year to expand and transform mental health services by 2023/24 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. This means that an additional 345,000 children and young people are now able to get the necessary NHS-funded mental health support.
The department will continue to work closely with experts to ensure that we are taking all necessary steps to prevent suicides among university students.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.