Greater Manchester will be the first place in the country to establish a dedicated centre to help support higher education students with mental health needs thanks to a new partnership between the region’s four universities and the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

The transition to university can be a tough time, with many young people living away from home for the first time – one in five 16-24 year olds experience depression or anxiety.

The new service will offer innovative and accessible treatment, looking at digital technology such as virtual clinics, to university students experiencing mental illness, for example eating disorders and severe depression.

Greater Manchester has one of the largest student populations in the country. The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Bolton and the University of Salford’s student body represents around 100,000 people.

The new service will transform mental health provision for university students in Greater Manchester by making sure that it’s easier to get referred, regardless of where someone studies or lives and that young people are supported with the transition to university. Students will also be able to keep the same GP throughout their student career with the roll-out of a Greater Manchester university-student GP passport.

Under the new system, wherever a student presents to the mental health system (NHS, third sector or at university), they would receive a standard assessment. Depending on the result of this, they would then proceed either to university services, or for more specialist intervention at the new centre.

This more integrated approach will also help to co-ordinate efforts to promote well-being and prevention, and share examples of successful practice. As it will focus specifically on students, planning will be able to take into account important demand factors such as exam times but the experience of the centre will also benefit staff.

The new centre will open is expected to open in the 2019-20 academic year. The plans were developed alongside the core partners and with the help of charities and students’ unions. It will be jointly funded by all the partners.

Dr Sandeep Ranote, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and children’s mental health lead for Greater Manchester said:

“Prioritising student mental health is vital to ensuring that young people get the very best out of university and thrive during their student career.

“We have a huge student population – more than any other city in the UK – and we need to do more to support them. Announcing our plans to improve how we support students’ mental health is just the first step on what will be an incredibly important journey.”

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