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Ground-breaking service for students

A ground-breaking collaboration between Bangor University’s Counselling Service and the North Wales Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programme has been shortlisted for a prestigious national Award.

Concerned by the worrying national trend of rising levels of distress, suicidality and self-harming behaviours amongst UK students, Bangor University’s Counselling Services, part of the University’s Student Services teamed up with experts in Bangor University’s North Wales Clinical Doctorate Programme to provide a treatment that provides practical support and aims to reduce risk. The project has now been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education Award under the category of ‘Outstanding Support for Students’.

Working with experts within the University’s North Wales Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programme, Counselling Service staff and clinical psychologists in training implemented an evidence-based treatment for the reduction of risk of suicide and self-harm that is rarely available to students.

Kate Tindle, Head of Bangor University’s Counselling Service explains one of the benefits of the new provision:

“As the course was delivered in a university setting, and involved university counselling service staff as well as clinical psychology staff, our initiative removed many of the barriers and stigma associated in accessing specialist help.”

The ground-breaking programme was piloted for an 8 week period at Bangor University in 2016-17, and such was its success that the programme has now been extended becoming part of the Service’s core provision providing three courses each year. 

Students identified within the Counselling Service as high risk were provided with a bespoke eight week course in Emotional Regulation Skills from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to teach a number of skills to help vulnerable students with understanding their emotions, alongside strategies to manage the emotions in difficult situations. The course was led by Dr. Michaela Swales, an international expert in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), which is a NICE-recommended treatment for suicidal and self-harming behaviours.

Dr Michaela Swales explains:

“By comparing measures of emotional wellbeing from the start and the end of the course, we know that the course resulted in significant reductions in risk of self-harm and suicide together with improvements in emotional regulation skills.  There was an 88% clinical and reliable improvement rate, among those who completed the course, with a notable reduction in their levels of academic worries.”

Kate Tindle added:

“With limited mental health resources available through the NHS, students often fall between what their university provides, and what is available in their home settings. We have found a way to bring specialised support directly to those students we’ve identified as being most vulnerable. We are very pleased that this intervention has not only been able to significantly reduce risk amongst this group of students, but has helped equip them with skills that will support them beyond their life as a student.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Carol Tully commented:

“I’m delighted that this innovative support for some of the most challenged students is receiving national attention through this shortlisting. Bangor University has a long tradition of teaching excellence and excellent student care. This is just one of many innovations which enhance students’ experience at Bangor University.”

The project was made possible by generous donations from Bangor University’s alumni  to The Bangor Fund. The Bangor Fund enables the University to deliver a margin of excellence or an element of additionality to the student experience.

The 14th annual THE Awards, known as the "Oscars of higher education" cover the full range of university activity in 18 categories. The winners will be revealed at a Gala event in London on 29 November.

THE editor John Gill said:

"Times Higher Education is extremely proud to host these awards once again. In yet another record year for entries, and with over 70 institutions represented on the shortlist, it’s a genuine privilege for the THE team and our judges to read through these many and varied tales of excellence from all corners of the UK. It’s a significant achievement to make this shortlist, and we look forward to honouring all the finalists at the Grosvenor in November."

Publication date: 6 September 2018