University Mental Health Day 2017
Over 100 Universities this year are taking part in ‘University Mental Health Day’, which is up from just over 70 Universities last year! And I’m proud to be a part of an institution that is involved in such an important awareness raising event. This year’s theme is ‘Active Mental Health’ to give students/staff the opportunity to talk about the relationship between mental health and physical wellbeing; Research suggests a positive link between physical activity and positive mental health.
“Nearly 50% of young people enter higher education. For many young people these are the first years they will spend away from established networks of family support”
Last week I attended a conference in London, Enhancing Student Wellbeing in Higher Education, which once again opened my eyes to what is going on in the sector, and ideas for enhancing our provision here at Cardiff Met. It’s on my agenda to take forward ideas/plans that we could implement to enhance the student support we offer, and the student experience as a whole!
Who is responsible for implementing this?
Everyone. Support services, academics, senior management, students and just about anyone within a university that has engagement with students. If the mental health provision is supported and endorsed by the senior management of the University it gives scope for change to be made and resources to be put in place. Not all provisions come at a large cost, but need the backing and drive to be established and implemented.
How do we go about improving the provision we offer?
For me, we need to be proactive in our approach rather than reactive. Putting in extra counsellors/mental health advisors will help initially to reduce waiting lists, but won’t solve the problem. An example given at the conference was:
“You can put an extra lane on a motorway, but it will soon get filled with cars. The problem is further back, and that’s what we need to try to resolve.”
We need to look at ways to build up student’s awareness of mental health, resilience, and self-help mechanisms. A lot of the time students just need someone to talk to, vent issues, and realise what they are going through is normal and they need coping strategies in place to help them. The idea of the Wellbeing Café that Student Services have recently started is a great initiative to take this forward.
To make change happen, we need support from the top of the university, and people that are passionate to drive the agenda. Other universities seem to be progressing with this, and although we have provisions already in place, I feel we can review this to ensure the right support is available to students/staff.