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USWSU tackle student mental health

Wednesday 03-08-2016 - 16:20

Mental health and suicide prevention are becoming ever-greater priorities for students’ unions across the country. Sam Senior, Vice President of Education & Welfare at University of South Wales Students’ Union, tells us how they used a National Lottery grant and innovative projects to tackle the issue on their campus.

PIPS Programmes – ‘Preventing Suicides in your university’

One of my priorities for the year was to improve the mental health/well-being provisions within our university. From September to December 2015 we applied for funding from The National Lottery to cover mental health and suicide prevention training for over 150 students over four days.

We arranged PIPS Programmes to provide the training during the week of 11 April 2016, and rapidly filled the places largely through social media and word of mouth.

At the start of the training I was completely unaware of what exactly was going to be delivered. With this in mind I thought that the training was fantastic, informative and delivered flawlessly. It was useful to provide the necessary information to those who either lack the understanding of mental health issues or to those who want to further their skills and develop themselves as a better person to help others.

This particular training topic is a sensitive one. The information presented stops you in your tracks and makes you think about the bigger picture. It engages you to think about how you would treat certain situations before and after you’ve had the training.

The training has reformed the way I think when I am talking to people who could be presenting warning signs of risks to themselves.

I could see that everyone was enjoying the training, they were all fully engaged and it was made very clear that they wanted to be there for the session. The subject material affected some of the participants in the room, but the trainers were looking out for those who needed a break from the session.

The sessions were extremely well received and were beneficial to all the students who attended. A smaller group of them are interested in setting up their own student support network.

This training has not only benefitted those who undertook the training but will have a lifelong impact on those they come in to contact with, as they will be able to help others throughout their university career and future lives.

Revision Aid / Pop Your Stress

To complement our work around mental health, we launched a week-long campaign to reduce stress among students during the pressing exam period. A host of events for students to indulge in included:

  • Blood, Sweat and Tea – we set up pop-up stalls in areas such as the library. The aim was to stop students who were passing through to offer them a study boost with a nice hot cup of tea, biscuits and a note from the “happy jar”. This event caught the attention of our students and gave them that 15 minute break and boost they needed.
  • Tea with the VP – This was a chance for students to take a break from their studies and sit down with the President or Vice President, have a cup of tea and simply talk their problems and stresses away.
  • Pet-a-pooch – Pet therapy! Most people love dogs and those who do agree they are a great way to relieve stress. We got in touch with a local dog charity to bring their rescued dogs in, a way for students and the local community to come together. We created an environment where students could go an relax with a dog or a puppy and forget everything that was surrounding them. The feedback from the event was that it helped those students to forget about all their exams worries and stress with the ability to go back to revision with a clear mind.
  • A gift from your union - The idea behind a gift from your union was to pick five random halls of residence and leave them with a gift basket of treat. These baskets would include things such as puzzle games, bouncy balls, chocolate and many more things. We surprised 5 flats in each of the half of residents that our students were living in.

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