Charlie Waller Partnerships
Examples of our partnership work with colleges and universities
Boston College puts the focus firmly on mental health
Boston College in Lincolnshire got in touch with CWMT in Summer 2018, seeking help to equip staff to support the wellbeing of students. Whilst the College already has an excellent Learners Support Service, including counselling and a support network, they felt they could do more to boost student wellbeing.
A partnership was set up with CWMT and the first step was for our trainer Rachel Welch to deliver wellbeing training to staff. This began with a questionnaire for staff which benchmarked their mental health and was followed by sessions designed to help staff support students with a range of issues including anxiety and depression.
Building student resilience
Spurred on by the success of the training, the College decided the next step was to focus on building student resilience. Rachel developed and delivered training sessions specifically for tutors who then developed their own mental health programmes and cascaded them to learners, including A-level students, apprenticeship students and vocational learners.
Julie Hebdige, Quality Improvement Manager at Boston College has been leading on the mental health initiative. She said: “We have a very strong Learners Service Team in place, but felt we wanted to do more to prevent learners who need specialist services. Staff told us they wanted to increase their confidence in dealing with wellbeing issues and know how to signpost. We also felt that building resilience was key to this.”
The training was very well received by students. A group of plumbing students made their own video on how to support good mental health; childcare students set up a breakfast club to enjoy a more relaxed start to the day; and animal care learners brought pets in to college to help A-level students de-stress before mock exams. Computing students decided to design a wellbeing website and as a result of their work the college has commissioned a small group of them to work together and actually produce a microsite for the college: http://www.mentalhealth.computingboston.org/
Following on from the partnership with CWMT, Boston College has initiated a programme of external speakers to talk about mental health. It is also developing its own wellbeing strategy, which includes plotting activities at the most stressful times of the year such as January and during summer exam time.
As part of the training activity, a wellbeing questionnaire was distributed to staff and students. The results provide a baseline which be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative when the questionnaire is repeated during summer 2019.
Rachel said: “The staff at Boston College have really taken the importance of mental health on board with great enthusiasm which has been reflected in an extremely positive reaction from the students. It is fantastic that the College is now embedding wellbeing into its annual calendar and is supporting promoting positive mental health on an ongoing basis.”
Julie added: “The mental health work has really had a positive impact on staff and students and it is something which has now become very much part of the college ethos.”
Queen Mary University London puts the focus on postgraduate wellbeing
CWMT has helped to develop an ongoing mental health initiative to support post graduate research students throughout their journey at Queen Mary University London (QMUL).
QMUL wanted to develop new training for PHD students and supervisors with the intention that the programme would be sustainable into future years.
Creation of training and resources
CWMT Consultant Mental Health Trainer Penelope Aspinall created a series of workshops, including content resources, which QMUL staff could deliver to large groups of post graduate researchers. Penny also developed a workshop specifically tailored for supervisors.
The aim of the post graduate research students’ workshops, which were part of wider PHD Cohort Days, was to help them identify any mental health issues and to promote develop emotional resilience and coping mechanisms. Penny held a face-to-face training with the QMUL staff who delivered these sessions.
The supervisor workshops helped staff recognise signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and where the students may be at risk; knowing when and how to intervene; as well as thinking about their own mental health.
Penelope Aspinall, Trainer at CWMT, said: “A lot of mental health work tends to focus on under graduates so to be able to target post graduates and their particular set of needs has been a really interesting and useful exercise. I am delighted that we have been able to create resources that QMUL can continue using in the future.”
Outcomes of the CWMT & QMUL Partnership Initiative
In terms of outcomes, QMUL felt the supervisor training was very well received and they intend to continue running this at least twice in each academic year going forwards. Following the workshop, 82% of participants rated their knowledge of mental health as ‘good or very good’. A further 78% said they will probably or definitely use what they have learned during the session. They also plan to continue to include wellbeing in the post graduate researcher cohort days in the future.
Dr Fryni Panayidou, Researcher Development Adviser (PGR) at QMUL said: “Postgraduate research students face particular pressures so we were keen to develop this new initiative with CWMT to support and promote student wellbeing. This initiative is part of a larger project at Queen Mary that aims to support the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers and is co-funded by the Office for Students and Research England Catalyst Fund. The fact that we now have a wealth of training resources on mental health and wellbeing means we can carry on providing this training without incurring additional costs.”
Post graduate researchers can face a particular set of pressures such as feeling isolated, time pressures, financial pressures and a conflict between family/paid work and research. Recent findings have suggested that PhD students are more than twice as likely to have or develop a mental health problem compared to the highly educated in the general population.
Check out our 'Looking after your mental health: Top tips for students' leaflet.
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