Food for Thoughts: Speaking The Mental Taboo in UoM
As the rising numbers of university students were being identified with mental health problems, the numbers showed a growing need for the mental health support. Therefore HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) has issued a report in 2015 identified the current difficulties and issues in adopting a wider range of Intensive support needs (ISN) across different boards of higher tertiary education institutions, through qualitative researches and interviews with different parties. the report suggested 5 different angles to tackle the current problems for universities which include: Encouraging early disclosure of mental health problems from students, development of an inclusive curricula to identify and priorities key students with needs, introduction of proactive measures and guides to develop student’s ability to cope with the issues themselves, improving internal relationships and communication between academic departments and students, and finally developing external partnership by introducing third parties organization to raise and monitor mental health problems.
Why is this related to UoM?
In University of Manchester, I believed the university has covered most of the suggestions suggested in the report: Firstly, it has provided a variety of all rounded support for students from different backgrounds, such as the Student Union for most of the majority student’s enquiries, the counselling services and International Society for stressed and homesick students living away from home or the DASS (Disability and Social Services) provided financial and consoling support groups for disabled students. Secondly, the university itself has also been working with third-party organizations, including Nightline to create a safe space environment, by providing a communication platform online and phone-in services for students to talk about their problems even after working hours. Thirdly, Manchester University also had introduced preventive measures by promoting mental health awareness through Wellbeing week and introducing long-term stress relaxing measures such as free sports scheme Sporticipates and relaxing facilities in Simon Building or Barnes Wallis Student. The university has provided a range of services and facilities for us students, but when I asked most of the students what would they do if someone approached them is having a panic or depression episode, they are unsure who to turn to and couldn’t provide a point of contacts. I believe this has highlighted the key challenge of our current university policies.
So why can’t they answer?
Even though most of the university has shown a strong initiative in improving and providing a wide-range of support to our current students and staff, the communication gap and the lack of advertisement for the universities current services made students unaware of most services provided and should be the main issue the university needs to tackle. This could be done easily by promoting and advertising the services around the university campus. By promoting more of the university counselling services through posters or events, such as setting the university’s computer lock screen with pieces of advice about relaxing and tips about wellbeing, both students and staff would be aware of university extensive supports and aid throughout daily life. Another way to bring the spotlight is to raise mental health by training, staffs and students’ roles. i.e. PASS leader, course representative or paid student roles should be trained to learn about most of the university’s active services. With more variety of contact points, people with needs which can be identified can be referred easily to the correct department, so more people will be covered by the services.
I truly believe education can also cultivate the idea of being considerate and develop a friendly culture to provide a safe and helpful community that can speak out through different channels for help among the university.