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Goldman Sachs funds training programme to tackle student mental health

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The “Mentally Healthy Universities” programme will run for two years and help an estimated 6,000 students.

As the student mental health crisis continues to weigh on campuses in even the most globalised economies, university administrators everywhere are constantly on the lookout for supplementary support from external parties, whether in the form of professional expertise or funding.

Typically, such calls to action are answered by non-profits and organisations in the health and related sectors.

But on Tuesday, a very different type of organisation came forward in the UK: the globally-renowned Goldman Sachs. 

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Working in partnership with the charity Mind, the investment bank is providing £1.5 million to 10 universities across the country to conduct specialist mental health training for both teachers and students.

Called the “Mentally Healthy Universities” programme, the pilot will run for two years and help an estimated 6,000 students.

According to Goldman VP Beth Robotham, the mental health training course would provide “training for students in their first and third year to support those transitions” between home, university, and the workplace.

“This is a little bit different to anything we’ve done before,” Robotham said in Yahoo Finance. “It was really driven by our partners. They felt very strongly they wanted to do something with young people in mental health. They are parents themselves, they work with graduates.”

If the programme proves a success, the firm intends to roll it out to more universities and bring in funding from other institutions.

The universities to benefit from the funding are:

  • University of Bath
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
  • University of Greenwich
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • London School of Economics (LSE)
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • University of Sheffield
  • Teesside University

According to Yahoo Finance, the schools were picked out of a pool of 30 that had applied for funding. Making the selection was a committee of Mind and Goldman Sachs staff whose decisions were based on several factors including need, diversity and delivery track record.

As we have reported, student mental health is a growing problem affecting universities everywhere. A recent poll of some 38,000 students in the UK revealed “alarmingly high” levels of anxiety, loneliness, substance abuse and thoughts of self-harm, suggesting rates of psychological distress and mental illnesses are on the rise in universities there.

Half of those polled (50.3 percent) admitted to thoughts of self-harm, nearly double the numbers reported in 2017, while close to one in 10 (9.4 percent) said they thought of it often or always.

Through its mental health training programme, however, Goldman Sachs hopes to change this narrative. 

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In a statement, Goldman Sachs International Richard Gnodde said: “We believe employers have an important role to play in changing attitudes towards mental health through providing support, resources and open conversation around an often stigmatised subject. We look forward to supporting Mind and these universities in launching this critical programme.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “We are really excited to be working with Goldman Sachs to better support thousands of university students and staff across England and Wales.

“We know that both students and staff face many pressures unique to the university environment. This timely opportunity allows us to deliver a programme that responds to the needs of university communities, building on good practice within the sector, to ensure everyone with a mental health problem receives support and respect.”

That Goldman Sachs is making this commitment to tackling student mental health points to the seriousness of the issue.

It’s no secret, after all, that investment bankers don’t exactly keep regular work hours. The field is often associated with long hours and plenty of stress.

For example, in 2013, a 21-year-old intern at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch died after working for 72-hours straight. It was later ruled that he died of an epileptic fit but that it was fatigue from overwork that triggered the fatal seizure.

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Robotham, who is also the deputy chair of the City Mental Health Alliance, noted that recent years have seen the emergence of many tragedies related to mental health issues, from the loss of life to people forced to struggle with disorders in the workplace and elsewhere.

“I think the industry, the City, and the country, and, frankly, globally people are trying to make change in this space because we’ve suddenly become much more comfortable to talk about the topic,” she said.

“We certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation 10 years ago.”

And when it comes to tackling mental health at the workplace, Goldman it seems, is leading by example. According to Robotham, the firm has on-site psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health first aiders to look after staff.

“The world is changing and what employees expect of their employers is also changing,” she said. 

“More than half of our organisation are millennials and they quite rightly expect a lot from employers in terms of support for wellbeing.”