With mental health issues amongst students becoming increasingly common, how can churches support students who are struggling?
We spoke with Dr Kate Middleton, Dr Roger Bretherton and Rachel Gardner about what they’re noticing in students and how they can be best supported. To watch the full video, tap here. For a summary of their tips, read below.
1. Encourage students to register with a GP at university
GPs act as a gatekeeper to the rest of the services that the NHS offers. Even if they are registered with a GP at home, choosing to sign up with a campus-based GP will help them should they need them.
“I’ve noticed that if a student was struggling and they had not registered with their GP, it was almost a sign they weren't going to finish the end of the year, if not the semester.”
- Dr Roger Bretherton
2. While you’re at it, encourage students to sign up with university well-being services
Most universities have well-being services for students to access. Even if they aren’t needed, encouraging students to introduce themselves, especially if they have underlying diagnoses, will help them to feel more secure at university.
3. Research university support services
Spend time getting to know the university services local to you so that you can offer these to students. Students may not be aware or may feel anxious about looking into support. By familiarising yourself with the support on offer, you can help them access it.
“Find out what services universities are offering. Don’t assume that there isn’t anything for students just because the students aren’t sure of what’s on offer.”
- Rachel Gardner
4. Bridge the gap between students and support
Why not use Student Linkup to connect with students and offer support if needed? Perhaps you could help them sign up for well-being services? Perhaps you could walk with them to an appointment?
“Churches can be involved in supporting all that groups are doing by helping people to connect with it, break down fears and misconceptions students might have about what might happen when they contact them.”
- Dr Kate Middleton
5. Pray, ask, and offer
Offer to prayer walk alongside university staff members and ask them where they need help. It may be that your church can offer some practical support they may need.
In response to asking where the university needs help, serve alongside other charities and faith groups in your area. In Preston, the local church partnered with other charities and faith groups to provide meals for students that were hungry. They not only fed the students, but built positive relationships with the university.
7. Be open to students
How can your church invite and welcome students? What is there for them when they meet you?
“Church may be a principal place of belongingness. It may be one of the things that get them through.”
- Dr Roger Bretherton