Glasgow University Counselling and Psychological Services are planning a complete review of the whole service, with aims to implement the new changes over summer and be ready for use by the start of the next academic term.
The changes include making more appointments available to students and providing online self-help material that is easy to access. The service is also trying to put together a seminar series that will focus on different clinical areas, such as anxiety and depression, and there are plans to implement a short-term therapy model, for which staff will receive training over summer. It is hoped that these changes will quicken the waiting time so that students needing support can be seen sooner and receive the appropriate treatment.
There will also be a focus on providing peer support groups in various schools and colleges. The service currently provides general counselling groups, mindfulness groups and CBT groups.
Philip Quinn, head of Counselling and Psychological Services, told the Glasgow Guardian: “We want to assist more students. It is about trying to help the students as much as we can and to make our service more efficient. We are really trying to help all difficulties, from minor to severe. We want to help anybody who comes through our door, which can be for a variety of things. I’m very optimistic that the changes we are making internally will enable us to do that.”
Quinn went on to explain the expected benefits of the updates: “The main benefit is that a given student can get the right treatment at the right time. This should impact on waiting lists and reduce them, by referring students into the different therapeutic modalities that we have. The waiting lists are high at the moment although there are a number of reasons for this.”
Shannon O’Hanlon, a second year psychology student, said of the changes: “As a psychology student, I am pleased to see the University of Glasgow doing everything they can to help students and to end the stigma concerning mental health.”
Mary McDonald, a medical student from Glasgow University, commented: “mental health can affect so many areas of university life, from work to the social side, which means it is so important that student welfare is prioritised and well managed within universities.”
Glasgow University has seen a surge in the demand for Counselling and Psychological services for students over the last few years. Increased waiting lists is a problem that all university counselling services are currently facing. This is an issue that the Heads of University Counselling Services (HUCS, a collective advocacy group representing the interests of university-based counselling and mental health services) have dramatically experienced over the past five years. As funding for services such as counselling from mental health charities and an over-burdened NHS has been reduced, referrals have increased. Students who need counselling support and psychological services are directed towards other sources of therapy such as their GP, and then recommended on to student services.
Quinn added that students experiencing mental health problems should not hesitate to seek help through the University: “Student welfare is one of our highest priorities and we have made significant investment in the services that we provide, including improved provision of support to those who require counselling. We would urge any students who may be experiencing difficulties of any kind to get in touch. The service is, of course, totally confidential.”