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AoC & Mental Health

Supporting the mental health of students and staff has become a major issue for all our member colleges. In order to address this challenge we developed an AoC Policy Group on Mental Health and Wellbeing, the Aoc Mental Health and Wellbeing Charter and an ongoing relationship with Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. The monthly briefings serve to inform members of our ongoing work on this agenda, highlight resources and identify key policy initiatives that impact upon all of our work.

Coronavirus updated 17 April


Unfortunately, given the scale of the Covid-19 outbreak, many colleges will be dealing with staff and students who have suffered the loss of a close family member or friend. Indeed many colleges may suffer the loss of staff members or students. Child Bereavement UK have materials, resources and a helpline for supporting young people up to the age of 25 and some colleges have reported back that they have been incredibly helpful. Cruse Bereavement Care also have a wide range of resources and support available for suitable for young people as well as adults. They have information specific to Covid and traumatic loss.


Sadly we are already aware that some young people have died by suicide during the lockdown. This can have a huge impact on staff and students. The Samaritans Step-by-step guide is a hugely useful resource for colleges dealing with suspected suicide attempts. Papyrus will also be familiar to many colleges as the organisation focussed on suicide prevention of young people. They too have advice for professionals and young people as well as a helpline. Staff may also consider these short online training materials from The Zero Suicide Alliance.

AoC will shortly be running a series of webinars on mental health and will have a special focus on bereavement. More details will be announced soon.

Supporting positive student and staff mental health has been a growing challenge for colleges in recent years so supporting everybody through the COVID-19 outbreak is undoubtedly going to add to the challenge at what is already a stressful time of year for many.

You don’t have to be self-isolating in order for coronavirus concerns to have an impact on your mental health. Students and staff might find they are feeling worried about the spread of coronavirus and its impact on themselves and loved ones. These feelings are normal and it’s important we acknowledge them.

There are steps everyone can take to look after their mental health and wellbeing. A number of organisations have published guidance on mental health considerations relating to the coronavirus outbreak, including:

Mind are one of the most well known charities working on mental health and have a wealth of information, some specifically targeted at under 18s. Worth noting that local Mind groups will have differing services as they operate as independent charities. Twitter: @MindCharity

The Anna Freud Centre has a whole collection of resources that will be of benefit to both college staff and young people. The materials are easy to navigate through their dedicated web pages to coronavirus. Twitter: @AFNCCF

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response providing support to address the mental health and psychosocial aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak, alongside colleagues at Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care and has useful guides and links to useful information and tips about managing your mental health during the coronorvirus outbreak. Twitter: @mentalhealth

Young Minds is the UK’s leading national charity fighting for children and young people's mental health and have put together a lots of hints and tips for young people. Twitter: @YoungMindsUK

The Mix is an online support service for young people between 13 and 25 and connects young people to experts and who’ll give you the support and tools to take on any challenges from homelessness to finding a job, from money to mental health, from break-ups to drugs. It is a free and confidential multi-channel service. Twitter: @TheMixUK

Mentally Healthy Schools have collated a huge amount of resources from across the system – some focused on younger students, but lots relevant to colleges, as have Heads Together Twitter: @heads_together

The team at Psychology Tools have put together this resource: Living with worry and anxiety amidst global uncertainty. It is a free guide help people manage worry and anxiety in these uncertain times. It includes theory along with practical tips to help people self manage.

We may assume that people will not always be able to access face-to-face services in the coming weeks. For staff and students with ongoing MH difficulties there are specific organisations that provide more general guidance:

Anxiety UK

There are also some self-help materials for students with anxiety here:

There are also self-help resources for students with Panic Disorder here.

For students, Student Minds, whilst focused on universities, has a helpful page of further resources, links and advice which will be relevant to your student body.

Staff Mental Health

Our partners at the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust have produced a working from home wellbeing action plan which may be useful to staff members

Education Support Partnership exists to support the mental health and wellbeing all staff.

Education, especially during these very challenging times. They offer a free 24/7 helpline staffed by trained counsellors as well as a financial grants service for any current and former worker in education

Please help us ensure that everyone working in education is aware of this source of support should they need it, the overall offer is highlighted on their Coronavirus support page.

Information about their counselling and helpline support can be found here and their grant programme here.

Further resources are available here and this blog that may be useful on teachers handling stress may also be helpful.

Apps to help self-management

There is a plethora of apps that can help with health-management, remote-monitoring and staying healthy. However, app stores are unregulated, and 85% of apps do not meet ORCHA's quality threshold.

This website provides links to apps that meet their threshold for a range of conditions – but the following apps are for self-care and anxiety:

  • Wysa* is an emotionally intelligent chatbot which employs research-backed, widely used techniques such as CBT, DBT, Yoga and meditation, to support users with stress, anxiety, sleep, loss and a whole range of other mental health and wellness needs.
  • Your.MD is a health tracker and symptom checker powered by Artificial Intelligence, which has been developed by doctors and data scientists. It provides instant personalised health information and services, whenever and wherever it’s needed, for free.
  • eQuoo* is an evidence-based Emotional Fitness Game, combining the excitement and joy of gaming and the expertise of mental health professionals to provide a new form of mobile prevention and therapy for young adults 18-28-years old.

(* may involve in-app purchase)

NHS Apps-library

NHS has an app library and there are a number of Apps that are free that link to stress, anxiety, self-harm and other mental health related support here.

Other support is available through well known national charities and it is worth sharing those numbers across your organisation:

  • Your GP or GPs out of hours service
  • Childline up to 18 yrs 0800 1111
  • NSPCC up to 18 yrs 0808 800 5000 24/7
  • Samaritans – 18+ confidential listening service open 24/7 116 123
  • Papyrus Hopeline UK – for young people feeling suicidal open Mon-Fr 10-10 Sat-Sun 2-5 0800 068 4141
  • Mindinfoline 9am - 6pm 7days 0300 123 3393 text 86463
  • Kooth - Free, safe and anonymous online support for young people Monday – Friday 12pm – 10pm Saturday – Sunday 6pm – 10pm
  • TESS - 0780 047 2908 text support for girls and young women up to 24 years affected by self-harm. Open Sun-Thurs 7pm – 9pm
  • CASS Self Injury Helpline for women 0808 800 8088 FREE Mon to Thurs evenings from 7-10pm

Online Safety

NSPCC have a wealth of resources looking at keeping young people safe on line, with topics including online gaming, porn and sexting. All the resources and information are available here.

Q42 is a young peoples LGBTQ+ group based in Manchester but with national reach. They have published this guide on online safety for staying connected while isolated, there are also lots of useful links to other advice on e-safety here.

Student Mental Health Resources

The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust has produced a series of short ‘Vimeos’ which are between 15 and 30 minutes long and are targeted at students.

Student Support