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Students launch petition to solve mental health ‘crisis’ at UEA as vice chancellor commits to 63pc funding boost

PUBLISHED: 17:56 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:56 14 March 2019

UEA students have started a petition to improve mental health care at the university. From left, Isabelle Keltie, 19; Chloe Fulcher, 20; Eva Wakeford, 21; Bill Weston, 20; and Adam Harvey, 20. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

UEA students have started a petition to improve mental health care at the university. From left, Isabelle Keltie, 19; Chloe Fulcher, 20; Eva Wakeford, 21; Bill Weston, 20; and Adam Harvey, 20. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

“We don’t want any more students to die.”

The UEA sign, Earlham Road entrance. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe UEA sign, Earlham Road entrance. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

That was the message of a petition demanding an improvement in mental health services at the University of East Anglia (UEA), after it was revealed on Wednesday the fourth student in 10 months had been found dead.

Adam Harvey, 20, was one of a group of students who started the petition.

Although prompted by the death of literature and creative writing student Theo Brennan Hulme this week, Mr Harvey said mental health support had been an issue on campus for many months.

Mr Harvey, a mechanical engineering third year, said: “A lot of us have suffered with mental health issues, I have as well personally, and I know the support we get at UEA is not enough and there is not enough funding and care.”

UEA students have started a petition to improve mental health care at the university. From left, back, Chloe Fulcher, 20; and Eva Wakeford, 21. Front, Bill Weston, 20; Adam Harvey, 20; and Isabelle Keltie, 19. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYUEA students have started a petition to improve mental health care at the university. From left, back, Chloe Fulcher, 20; and Eva Wakeford, 21. Front, Bill Weston, 20; Adam Harvey, 20; and Isabelle Keltie, 19. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Professor David Richardson, UEA vice chancellor, said an extra £250,000 is being invested into student support services this year to improve access and from August the university will spend £1.4m on mental health, a 63pc increase in the budget.

MORE: Student revealed suicidal thoughts before he went missing

But Mr Harvey said: “It’s been going on for a while, the mental health situation has not been ideal. Everyone is asking for things to change.”

The number of students accessing mental health services at the UEA almost tripled in four years from 2013 to 2017 from 536 to 1,429.

And Prof Richardson said: “We have recognised the significant increase in demand in wellbeing and mental health services and have been planning for additional investment.”

But by Thursday afternoon Mr Harvey’s petition was nearing 4,000 signatures.

He said this showed how Mr Brennan Hulme’s death had shaken the student community.

“There’s a huge community aspect to it at UEA, we all work together,” he said. “It is a crisis.”

Prof Richardson said: “What we can do, what we must do, what we are focused on doing is responding to give the students and staff in our community the support and assistance they need on a whole-institution basis. As a parent myself, I know how much anxiety and worry this causes for everyone.”

Mr Harvey said when he was struggling with his mental health he went to student support services.

“I was told to wait it out for a few months,” he said. “But when you’re in that dark place you need proper help. Student support services offered a workshop, but it’s not what a lot of people need, they are big groups.”

MORE: Student found dead at University of East Anglia

And he said students felt “outraged” at the response of the university to deaths, with what he called “robotic” statements.

“It almost feels like an email template,” he said.

He said with high tuition fees the university had a responsibility to students to provide care and support. Prof Richardson said the university took that responsibility “very seriously”.

Mr Harvey’s petition called for more counsellors to be hired by the university to bring down waiting times, and Prof Richardson committed to recruiting specially trained wellbeing staff including a further cognitive behavioural therapist and senior wellbeing advisor, plus extra trainers to help staff to support students.

He said: “We are improving our services. We are investing more. But it’s not just about money. We will need a whole community response on these issues and I will be leading a VC taskforce on mental health and wellbeing at UEA. We do need to look out for each other and support each other through this.”

To sign the petition, click here.

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