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Accessible Support Services - Campaign Update

Accessible Support Services Campaign

City Students’ Union’s ‘Accessible Support Services Research Report’ looks at the experiences of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) students accessing the Student Counselling, Mental Health and Accessibility Service at City, University of London. It highlights perceived barriers faced by BAME students when accessing the counselling services in particular, as well as the importance of having culturally appropriate services that include ethnically diverse staff that reflects the student body.

Why this report is important

The Mental Health Foundation found that people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to become disengaged from mainstream mental health services, frequently due to lack of staff understanding. According to Birkbeck University, fears of prejudice, racism and poor trust in confidentiality are also key factors preventing BAME students from accessing counselling. These are crucial findings with serious implications and since at City, the majority (63.3%) of UK students come from a BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) background with only 34% of City students identifying as white, City Students’ Union has decided to look into how BAME students access the support services available here at the university.

The report used findings from focus groups with over 40 ethnically and racially diverse students from across all Schools and from the Student Wellbeing Survey, which received responses from over 160 students from all Schools.

Findings:

  1. Students highlighted the lack of awareness/visibility of the service or the steps to get help to be one of the main barriers, as well as stigma to get mental health support (or not feeling comfortable to use the service due to confidentiality concerns).
  2. Students highlighted the difficulty in finding non-white therapists
    • Over 46% of students believe when seeking counselling, they would benefit from specifically being able to see a counsellor from the same cultural background as them.
    • When seeking counselling, if given the opportunity, 31% of students said they would specifically request a counsellor from the same ethnic and cultural background as them.
  3. A few students mentioned the lack of cultural and religious understanding as a barrier to accessing mental health services
    • 91% of students agreed that they would benefit from a culturally responsive mental health and counselling service at City
  4. Students emphasised the negative impact the long waiting times, especially during stressful periods
  5. Students pointed out that international students living abroad don’t have access to the counselling services and online delivery of mental health services was also raised as a barrier for some students particularly when raising family issues at home
  6. Finally, it was emphasised that counsellors also need to have a wide knowledge on LGBTQIA+ issues, different faiths and need to culturally sensitive in order to empathise with students. Students also need to know that staff have this knowledge to ensure the services feel accessible.

The report proposed recommendations on the basis of its findings which will be taken forward and implemented.

If you would like to read the full report, click here.