A top government minister has called on universities to do more to help students struggling with mental health issues.

Education secretary Damian Hinds is telling higher education representatives to reach out to students’ emergency contacts when it is clear that they are at risk of a mental health crisis.

He has written to Professor Julia Buckingham, who is chairing a round table on student mental health, asking the sector to maintain the focus that has been built up in recent months following the Student Mental Health Summit that was held at the University of the West of England in June 2018.

The event, hosted by Universities UK (UUK), will aim to develop advice for universities on consent for the disclosure of information about severe student difficulties to third parties.

Mr Hinds said: “Ensuring that university students, many of whom will be leaving home for the first time, are supported is a key challenge for my department and the higher education sector as a whole.

“Our universities are world-leading in so many areas and I want them to be the best in the world for support and pastoral care as well. Ensuring that universities get better at reaching out to family members if a student is struggling with mental health is a big step along the road to delivering that ambition.

“I’ve made clear to the sector how important this issue is and now I want them to work together to find a clear way forward so young people can get support from every person and organisation best able to give it.”

The cabinet minister hopes that giving clear guidance to universities will ensure struggling young people will have every possible chance of receiving help from someone in their domestic support network.

This can be particularly important for students studying away from home, who may have a reduced support group.

In a recent Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) survey, 75 per cent of applicants to higher education expected universities to contact a parent or guardian in situations where they are faced with serious challenges relating to their mental health.

n MIND in West Cumbria has a number of tickets remaining for its annual trip to the pantomime at the Carnegie Theatre in Workington.

This year’s performance of Annie will take place on Saturday, December 15 at 11.30am. For tickets, call Mind on 01900 66518.