‘More able to share’ – Birmingham City University
Birmingham City University is an outstanding, culturally inclusive institution in the UK’s second-largest city. With high rates of student satisfaction and sector-leading student support, BCU educates around 24,000 students annually.
BCU’s existing counselling services were coming under increasing pressure, with long waiting lists. There was also a concern that harder-to-reach students were not coming forward, due to issues of cultural stigma, problems around accessibility, and a lack of engagement (UK-wide, some 75% of those struggling with mental health issues cannot or will not reach out for support).
BCU wanted to:
connect students with innovative, low-level mental health and wellbeing support, with sound clinical underpinning
provide self-management and resilience tools, to act as early intervention and crisis prevention
enhance support for staff as well as students.
How we helped
Since commissioning Big White Wall in September 2017, BCU has been able to offer 24/7 clinically moderated support, in addition to its existing services. Providing a digital option for mental health support has proven to be cost-efficient and the service is scalable: there is no limit to the number of staff and students who can use it.
BCU students and staff can discuss mental health issues in a safe environment without fear or judgement, with free access to the BWW Support Network (24/7 anonymous peer support, moderated and facilitated by clinicians) and Guided Support courses (online programmes to learn coping skills on a range of wellbeing and healthy lifestyle topics). The service is immediately available by self-referral from a valid university e-mail address: students can also be referred by the BCU counselling team, and campus-wide marketing brings the service to the attention to students and staff.
Between September 2017 and May 2018, over 790 BCU students and staff registered on Big White Wall – 3% of the university population. For many of these people BWW was their sole source of support, while for others it was the initial support they received before they engaged with other services.
In a recent survey, 76% of BCU respondents said that they used the service outside of office hours. 79% reported that BWW had helped to improve their personal wellbeing, most commonly in terms of ‘feeling more able to share’ and ‘feeling less isolated’. 68% of staff and student members said they found the service helpful. The service reaches a diverse mix of BCU members, proving that digital doesn’t have a ‘type.’