In response to ‘Student mistakenly expelled due to University mental health policy‘ by Laura Abernethy (6 March 2014)
I write to express concern at the article and editorial of 6 March on the subject of mental health and Student Services.
As a part-time member of academic staff, and having worked in several minor roles in the wardennial system and in disability support, I was hugely dismayed to read what can only be construed as an egregious attack upon the personnel of Student Services, apparently contrived on the sole basis of a small number of anonymous interviews. I am well aware of the quality of the vast majority of work carried out by Student Services, whilst from an academic perspective I appreciate the enormous (and often deeply personal) commitment of its staff towards the well-being of our students.
It is difficult to measure the success of the work done by Student Services in this area. Partly this is because, ideally, the results of recovery are invisible to the world outside. Given the extremely challenging nature of mental health issues from both a personal and an institutional perspective, mistakes of the kind described in the aforementioned article are inevitable. Whilst such cases are a serious problem, the isolated incidents of failure discussed by The Saint in no way justify the attack levelled by the editorial of 6 March.
If the editorial team of The Saint truly wishes to embrace a commitment to mental health issues in St Andrews – one which matches the tone of its criticisms of Student Services – its members would do well to begin with some basic research into the role of this department. This would certainly assist in clearing up the numerous false assumptions, too numerous to list here, on which these two pieces were based. Perhaps it would also make clear to the editors of this newspaper why engaging publicly in ill-informed criticism of this nature can only cause harm to those genuinely in need of help.
Dr Jamie Page
School of History