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Oxford University releases new mental health toolkit for students

During Hilary vacation on University Mental Health Day, the University of Oxford released a new mental health toolkit for students as part of a research trial led by the Department of Psychiatry. 

The digital toolkit, named Nurture-U, is a national project that has already been made available to students at several universities across the UK, including Exeter University and King’s College London. Around 200 students have already taken part in the project, which aims to “find better ways to support university students’ mental health and wellbeing.” 

Nurture-U creates “customisable plans and assessments” based on student feedback. It also directs students to university-specific and community resources. As a result, according to the Project Manager for Oxford, Dr Kevin Matlock, the toolkit can function “as a stand-alone, self-directed mental health aid or a supplement to ongoing counselling or pastoral care.” 

The toolkit is a collaborative project from six universities across the country, including Oxford. It is also funded by several Oxford University Research Councils, including the Medical Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

Dr Matlock noted that in spite of a growing need for mental health support among university students, “many apps only provide general information.” Nurture-U fills that gap by providing personalised wellbeing advice on areas related to sleep, stress levels and exercise. It also tracks progress over time. 

The toolkit’s release to Oxford students comes as mental health issues rise among the student population. A survey conducted by Nurture-U found that 34% of Oxford students experience “high levels of anxiety and depression.” Additionally, the 2022-2023 report from the Student Welfare and Support Service showed that it took up to 15 days for eight out of ten students to meet with a professional through the Service. Accordingly, part of Nurture-U’s mission is to “identify barriers students encounter when accessing mental health and welfare services at Oxford.” 

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