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Referral for support

First points of contact

Many people, including students and staff, are uncertain about what happens when professional help is sought for a mental health problem. The most likely sources of professional help in the first instance are either a General Practitioner (GP), university/college counsellor or disability adviser. For more information on these see our map of local support options.

General Practitioner or Counsellor?

Students who are experiencing emotional or mental health problems at a level which is causing concern can consult their GP and / or a counsellor from their student counselling service. Counsellors will advise referral to medical services where appropriate.

If a student is experiencing psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, severe paranoia, loss of touch with reality, etc. or seems in real danger of self-harm or suicide it is essential that the GP should be involved in the first instance. If in doubt you can contact the GP for advice about whether the student should be seen.

Psychiatric services

Access to psychiatric (Secondary Care level) services is only needed for a small proportion of people who experience emotional or mental health problems, the majority are dealt with by General Practitioners (Primary Care level) or counsellors.

Secondary services are usually accessed following referral from an individual's GP.

Most psychiatric care is based in the community with individuals being supported by Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs). These teams are made up of people with a range of skills: psychiatric consultants, clinical psychologists, community psychiatric nurses, social workers and occupational therapists.

The Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHT) provides 24/7 care and support to individuals suffering acute mental illness and at risk of needing admission to hospital. Occasionally a student will be admitted as an in-patient to the Warneford Hospital or Littlemore in Oxford. Once things have settled down they will be discharged to their home, usually with follow-up from the CRHT or CHMT.

Psychological therapies based at the Warneford Hospital include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Individual Psychotherapy, Cognitive Analytical Therapy and Group Therapy - all on an outpatient basis. These are usually accessed via GP referral or CMHT referral.

Specialist psychiatric services

Where appropriate, students with mental health problems can be supported by specialist services. These cover:

  • Eating disorders. Referral to the Eating Disorders Unit is through a GP's referral to the CMHT.
  • Alcohol and drug addiction. Referral to the Community Addictions Team is through a GP's referral to the CMHT.
  • Psychosis. The Oxfordshire Early Intervention Service works with young people (up to 35) experiencing their first episode of psychosis.

Students can self-refer or be referred by a GP or mental healthcare professional.

Students who have attempted deliberate self-harm or suicide and attend A&E are often assessed and assisted into other sources of support by the Crisis Service.

Support upon return to study

Staff in the health and counselling services are bound by rules of confidentiality, but with the student's permission it can be useful for education staff to have some contact with such staff when a student is returning to their studies after a period of treatment.


Last edited: 15 06 2012