Extended student support to be introduced in pioneering new University of Sunderland scheme

A unique collaboration between two North-East organisations means thousands of students in the region will be able to access 24-hour mental health support for the first time.

The University of Sunderland and Home Group have partnered up to offer the Overnight Student Support Service – running from 6.30pm to 6.30am seven days per week – which means the university can now offer its students round the clock, face-to-face support.

Aimed at students in University or private accommodation across Sunderland, there’s also remote provision available for those living outside the city. The offer will enhance the university’s comprehensive wellbeing service and care packages, which already include 24/7 digital support.

The new service will be a pro-active intervention facility with on-site personal support available for those who feel they need that extra helping hand –whenever they need it.

The need for more support for students has never been so pressing. In a report published last year by the admissions service UCAS, the number of UK applicants to UCAS that shared a mental health condition has increased by 450% since 2011. The report also highlighted that 49% of students asked in a recent survey said they didn’t share their information.

Both the University and Home Group are committed to supporting people with mental health needs, and that is why they have formed this unique partnership where two disparate organisations from different sectors have come together to tackle a growing universal issue.

The aim of the service is to ensure students who feel they need support – for whatever reason – have someone they can personally talk to at any time of the day or night. Types of support offered include:

  • Crisis intervention-managing students in distress
  • Advocacy and Advice
  • Practical Support
  • Emotional Support

Tracey McKenzie, Head of Wellbeing at the University, said: “I’m incredibly proud of the wide-range of support the University provides for our students to enable them to get the very best from their experience with us.

“One of the things we prioritise is the value of our interconnected services, supporting students to seek help early to prevent difficulties escalating to crisis level. We are part of the All Together Better alliance in Sunderland and together we deliver the most personalised, pro-active and joined-up care possible for our students.

“Our new ‘out-of-hours’ scheme is part of an existing suite of support provision which includes a wide range of digital support. It’s such an exciting development for

Sunderland and we are delighted to be working with Home Group as together, we will enable quick access to support outside the working hours.

“This is a collaboration with our students at the heart, not as an alternative but a compliment to existing provision for students living in university or private accommodation across the city, with remote provision available for students living outside of the city.”

The service will primarily provide crisis response and support to those who need it, offering a telephone support and a drop-in support service.

Deanne Cafferkey, Operations Manager at Home Group, said: “Through out-of-hours support we will provide a lifeline to students during evenings and overnight, when the challenge of living away from home, family and friends can be at its most acute.

“The aim is to deal with any mental health needs before they become serious issues, as well as removing pressure from crisis mental health support lines and ultimately reducing the need for hospital stays.”

The new scheme has also won approval from the University’s students’ Union (SU).

Christopher Davison, President: Activities for Sunderland Students’ Union, said: “Sunderland SU are proud that our students’ are going to be able to access much needed support 24-hours a day.

“A really positive move for the students of the University.”

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