This case study discusses issues relating to suicide and mental health. It does not constitute regulatory guidance. If you are affected by any of the issues raised, there is a list of services that can help on the topic briefing.
Healthy NTU: a health promotion and primary intervention programme
Healthy NTU is the Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Health Promotion Primary Prevention programme. Led by student support services it provides self-care advice and information.
This case study focuses on suicide prevention work over the last year. The core elements include training, partnership working, peer-to-peer delivery and promotion.
NTU is one of the largest universities in the UK with 30,000 students across four campuses.
Student health promotion has been an ongoing area of work at NTU for more than 15 years, with suicide prevention being an integral part of the mental health strand.
The aim is to improve knowledge and understanding with a goal of self-care and looking after others becoming a way of life for the NTU community.
The university uses a multi-component approach which includes:
- workshops for staff and students
- peer-to-peer delivery – student mental health champions deliver activities and help with promotion
- a partnerships approach – including internal and external services
Training for students
The Student Minds Look After Your Mate Workshop includes training on how to spot early warning signs that someone might be struggling with their mental health, what to do and say and how to support them.
The focus of the workshop is to teach students how to look after themselves and as part of the workshop they address self-harm, death by suicide and suicidal thoughts. The training emphasises the importance of peer supporters establishing boundaries, and students are also strongly encouraged to use the support the university offers and to contact support services if needed.
In 2020-21, 31 sessions were delivered to 882 students. The workshop is offered to all students, but sessions promoted through academic schools have the best attendance.
The statements below form part of the evaluation questions that are asked after each session. The percentage results are the scores for this academic year from those who responded to the survey, and rated the session from Average to Excellent for each criterion:
- Skills to look after their own mental health – 99 per cent
- Skills to support a friend who is experiencing difficulties – 99.5 per cent
- Knowledge of the support available at university – 100 per cent
- Usefulness of the workshop - 99 per cent.
'It was excellent! I honestly loved hearing about the student services, which I think I glossed over when they were mentioned at the start of term. It is really important to keep telling students about mental health services that the uni offers because they will forget.' (student response)
SHARP delivered sessions on suicide, self-harm and mental health - these were bespoke sessions for university students and were run as a pilot. This training was very well received by students and had a satisfaction rate of 90 per cent. Due to the success of the sessions further funding has been confirmed to run more sessions in the next academic year.
Training for staff
Part of the approach to staff training involved workshops delivered mainly by the Student Health Development Officer and Student Support Advisor. The content was developed in direct response to staff feedback, as well as established courses to specifically address suicide prevention. The workshop is part of the CPD offer to all staff and includes information on how staff can look after their own mental health.
The staff workshop ‘How to support student mental health’ was arranged because staff noticed that more students were asking for help and they wanted to feel equipped, confident and able to support. A key aim of the workshop is to ensure staff know how to refer a student on to the appropriate services and know about the different levels of risk, what to do and where to get further support if needed.
During 2020-21, 303 staff members across all academic schools were trained. The feedback from staff suggests that the workshops are making a positive difference to staff confidence in addressing these challenges.
- the overall satisfaction rate of the training was 94 per cent
- when asked if staff felt more equipped to support someone, the overall response was 93 per cent
- when asked if staff feel more equipped to look after their own mental health, the overall score was 88 per cent.
NTU also offers a one-hour workshop specific to death by suicide, which is developed and delivered by our Mental Health Support Team and reflects UUK's Suicide-Safer Universities guidance. The university also offers Zero Suicide Alliance training.
Student mental health champions
NTU has taken the approach that peer-to-peer delivery can help to normalise challenges and anecdotal evidence suggests that students at NTU seem to embrace this approach.
All student mental health champions are offered Look After Your Mate, Suicide Awareness, and Drugs and Sexual Violence Awareness training. The programme is led by NTU’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Project Officer and the Welfare Officer for the student union at NTU. The student champions are supported by staff.
This year, ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions have been developed to provide better peer-to-peer opportunities for students during the coronavirus pandemic. The sessions provide a safe space for students to talk about anything from settling issues to exam worries. The student champions receive training that covers boundaries and confidentially and what it means in different situations. It is stressed that the sessions are confidential, which gives the freedom for students to express how they are feeling. And the champions receive guidance that covers what to do if they feel a student may be at risk, and under what circumstances they do not need to seek consent to share information.
The development of partnerships ensures that NTU is represented on key local groups like the Nottingham Suicide Prevention group. Sitting on groups such as this provides a platform for feedback - they are places where collective strengths can help address issues surrounding suicide prevention on a local level.
A key partnership approach is linking with locally commissioned mental health and wellbeing services, which include services such as Let’s Talk Wellbeing and Tomorrow Project. These core services enable us to refer students for support.
A student-wide varied media approach is used, including:
- Healthy NTU Blog – written by students for students. The majority of the blogs are based on personal experience and they have helped to normalise issues and encourage other students to access support. They are checked by qualified staff before going live and include content warnings if appropriate. Topics covered include:
- Anxietea podcast
- ‘Making Every Contact Count’ campaign. This is where positive nudging techniques are used to make contacts count, such as having chalk boards around campus with statements like ‘It’s ok not to be ok, help is never far away’ and posters in toilets.
The approach aims to help educate and raise awareness of the support and opportunities available. This is done by adopting a multi-component approach made up of a peer-to-peer programmes, training, a range of physical and art-based wellbeing activities, partnership working and promotion.
Feedback suggests that this wide-ranging and student-centred approach improves student awareness of support that is available and encourages students to access support services where necessary.
Paul Dodsley, Student Health Development Officer, Nottingham Trent University
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