Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group minutes: 15 November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 15 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment, and Training (Chair)
  • Steven Paxton, Scottish Government
  • Daniel McCarron, Scottish Government
  • Morag Williamson, Scottish Government
  • Amy McLuskie, Scottish Government
  • Alison Eales, QAA Scotland
  • Allie Scott, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Andy Shanks, University of Edinburgh
  • Brian Magee, COSCA
  • David Lott, Universities Scotland
  • Fiona Drouet, Emily Test
  • Fiona Burns, SFC
  • Gloria Laurini, SPARQS
  • Jen Johnston, Heriot-Watt University
  • Jill Stevenson, University of Stirling/AMOSSHE
  • Jon Vincent, Glasgow Clyde College, Colleges Scotland
  • Julie Sinclair, SAAS
  • Katie Gilbert, NUS Think Positive
  • Kirsten Amis, Glasgow Clyde College
  • Lorna Caldwell, SAAS
  • Lynn Kilbride, Robert Gordon University
  • Murdo Mathison, UCU
  • Richmond Davies, Public Health Scotland
  • Robert Partridge, University of Glasgow/AMOSSHE
  • Ruth Unsworth, University of St Andrews
  • Ellen Mackintosh, University of St Andrews
  • Steve Mulligan, BACP
  • Stew Fowlie, Scottish Student Sport
  • Stewart Forrester, University of Strathclyde
  • Tom Hall, Colleges Scotland
  • Toni Giugliano, NUS Scotland


  • Debbie Browett, Scottish Government
  • Eileen Imlah, EIS
  • Liam Furby, NUS Scotland
  • Pamela Gillies, Glasgow Caledonian University/Universities Scotland
  • Chris Jones, Unite the Union
  • Craig Smith, SAMH
  • Lauren Knight, Universities Scotland

Items and actions

Introduction, welcome and apologies

Mr Hepburn welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted apologies from members as listed above.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as an accurate record and members approved them for publication on the Scottish Government website.

Revised timeline

Members were content with the revised timeline for the Group’s activities, which had been updated to the reflect that the discussion on clinical referral pathways will now take place at the next meeting of the Group in December.

Scottish Government and COSLA’s Suicide Prevention Strategy

Morag Williamson (Scottish Government) gave an overview of the Scottish Government and COSLA’s joint Suicide Prevention Strategy, ‘Creating Hope Together’, which was published on 29 September 2022.

The Strategy aims to reduce the number of suicide deaths in Scotland, taking a preventative and early intervention approach, addressing stigma and the inequalities which can contribute to suicide. It is a long term 10 year strategy, the implementation of which will be supported by a series of shorter term action plans, and guided by the principles of ‘Time, Space, and Compassion’.

Members thanked Ms Williamson for her presentation and discussed the need for the Strategy to take into consideration the diverse demographics that make up the student population, as well as how staff are resourced to adequately support students who may be at risk of suicide.

Ms Williamson confirmed that the Strategy and corresponding action plans will look at the intersectionality between the various risk factors and characteristics which can contribute to suicide, and will take the diversity of the student population into account. Ms Williamson also concurred that we should be proactive in equipping staff with the resources to support students at risk and that training should be appropriately targeted at staff who are more likely to interact with vulnerable students.

Scottish Government’s Self-Harm Strategy

Amy McLuskie (Scottish Government) gave a presentation on the Scottish Government’s forthcoming national Self-Harm Strategy.

This will be the first Self-Harm Strategy for Scotland and will be shaped by lived experience and feedback from key stakeholders and service providers. It will be separate from, but closely linked to, the aforementioned Suicide Prevention Strategy, as well as other Scottish Government strategies, including the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Student Mental Health Plan.

The Strategy is currently in early development with the expectation that it will be published in spring/summer 2023. Ms McLuskie advised members that they will have opportunity to comment on the Outline Strategy and offered to share additional material after the meeting.

The approach to address suicide and self-harm as separate, but related, issues was broadly welcomed by members.

Post-meeting note: Officials have shared additional material on the Self-Harm Strategy with the Group, and a link to an online survey where members can provide comments/feedback on the Outline Strategy.

Any other business

Julie Sinclair (SAAS) informed members that SAAS, in collaboration with the SFC, are launching a campaign to encourage students to register with their local GP once they have moved home, so that they can access wellbeing support services within their new local authority area. Further information will be available on the Student Information Scotland website.

Lynn Kilbride (RGU) welcomed the campaign, whilst noting ongoing issues in relation to capacity within local GP services.

Steve Mulligan (BACP) and Jon Vincent (Colleges Scotland) requested an update from the Scottish Government regarding funding for mental health counsellors in colleges and universities.

Mr Hepburn advised that the Scottish Government will shortly inform the SFC of the allocations.

Toni Giugliano (NUS Scotland) sought to clarify a point from the minutes of the previous meeting, noting that the Scottish Government have responded to NUS Think Positive’s funding proposal with an offer of grant, but that the offer is yet to be formally accepted. Mr Giugliano advised that a resolution is required by the end of the current week in order for the project to continue.

Mr Hepburn advised that officials are in discussions with NUS Think Positive, and working at pace to resolve the matter.

Date of next meeting

Mr Hepburn informed members that the next meeting of the Group will take place on 13 December.  

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