Orygen recently welcomed a host of international and national speakers to Parkville for a symposium focused on sharing experiences in developing and actioning a mental health framework within higher education settings.
The symposium attracted more than 70 stakeholders including students and representatives from the mental health sector, university sector, and government.
Following presentations, participants provided feedback on the draft framework that Orygen has developed over the past 18 months.
Penny Carlson, senior project manager at Orygen, said hearing from international and national guests on their experience of enacting a mental health framework in their contexts allowed Orygen, and attendees at the event, to learn from their respective experiences and provide guidance on the way forward in developing a National University Mental Health Framework.
“Understanding this expertise is critical to the development of the framework,” Ms Carlson said.
Orygen began working on the National University Mental Health Framework after the release of its report Under the radar: the mental health of Australian university students which found that at least 25 per cent of young university students experienced mental ill-health in any one year.
In 2018, in response to the report, the Australian Government funded Orygen to develop the framework to provide guidelines for universities to support the creation of learning environments that are conducive to good mental health and wellbeing.
Ms Carlson said universities play a key role in our society, through educating our future workforce, developing our future leaders and contributing to the growth of knowledge and innovation to create better futures for us all.
“It is fitting that universities are at the forefront of the reforms currently taking place in mental health,” Ms Carlson said.
“We know from existing evidence that there is an increase in psychological distress among university students. In working to overcome this issue, the framework will provide universities, and the communities they sit within, guidance on how to best support university student mental health and wellbeing.
“There is great energy and commitment to improving the mental health and wellbeing of university students and the wider university community from many individuals and groups.
“Mental health and wellbeing are shared responsibilities and both universities and community-based mental health organisations are supportive of a collaborative approach.
“Co-designing approaches with students is essential to ensure their needs are understood and responses are appropriate.
“A whole-of-university approach focused on creating a healthy setting supportive of both student and staff mental health and wellbeing is important for bringing about long-term change,” Ms Carlson said.
The National University Mental Health Framework will be launched in mid 2020.