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Students across Scotland will have access to more support to help them deal with the mental health impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Additional Scottish Government funding, which will be distributed to colleges and universities by the Scottish Funding Council, will allow support staff to carry out more frequent checks to identify potential mental health issues, as well as wider welfare concerns, such as access to food deliveries and other necessities. The funding will also help to increase the number of drop-in chats for students, which will offer counselling on a digital platform. Staff will also be able to direct students to the appropriate services, including referring them to a clinician, if appropriate.

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said:

“We want students and their families to feel reassured that practical and welfare support is in place, particularly given current circumstances.

“This extra funding will build on the support already in place, including the additional counsellors provided by our recent investment of £3.64 million.

“During the pandemic we have committed £6 million of funding to improve mental health throughout Scotland. And on Monday, we announced £15 million to respond to the mental health issues of children and young people. Students have access to all services available to the general population, including the Clear Your Head campaign to support people to take care of their mental health and wellbeing.

“We have also expanded the NHS24 Mental Health Hub so that it is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and increased the capacity of the Breathing Space telephone helpline and web support service.”

Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes at the Scottish Funding Council, James Dunphy said:

“Positive mental health is fundamental to students’ ability to progress and make the most of their education experience. We know the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of many students, both new and returning, and so we welcome this additional funding.

“Colleges and universities have made great progress with the funding they have already received, employing additional counsellors to support students in need, and this additional funding will enable them to target their support in more flexible ways, including increased access to online services, crisis intervention, and wellbeing support for those in isolation.”

NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said:

“We warmly welcome today’s additional funding which will help to support students’ mental health and wellbeing after a tough start to the academic year.

“The impact of COVID-19 on students has undoubtedly taken its toll – academically, financially and socially. Now more than ever we need to ensure that their mental health and wellbeing is looked after, and this funding is a welcome start to ensuring that every student who needs support, has access to it. We look forward to further details of how the funding will be allocated and spent.”