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Our approach at University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) is to recognise that every student is a whole person with a very real life. Everyone is on their own unique journey through life and everyone’s experiences are different. However, mental health is something that we all have – and at points in our lives we are all likely to experience periods of ill mental health.

UCS is a new institution and we are working hard to build a culture where students and staff can talk openly about their mental health. We are a small, close-knit community where everybody tends to know each other. This helps massively – it is very difficult to remain anonymous here, as can often happen at larger universities. The small class sizes and our Personal Academic Tutor system means that students build strong relationships with their classmates and lecturers - this makes for a very supportive and nurturing academic environment.

I often describe the services at UCS as being ‘the best of both worlds’. In addition to being part of a small, inclusive community in Shrewsbury, all of our students also have access to the range of specialist services they would expect from a large university.

In Shrewsbury we have a full-time, dedicated wellbeing service which acts as the first port of call for any student wishing to discuss their mental health. Our focus is on prevention as well as intervention. We work hard to promote this culture of openness and reduce the stigma around mental health. We run a wide range of sessions aimed at raising awareness of specific issues and promoting healthy lifestyles. These range from discussion groups, awareness campaigns, drop-ins and events. Recently we have run discussion groups on issues around body image, anxiety, exam stress, suicide prevention training and male mental health sessions, as well as having beginners’ running groups, and walking and talking groups in the Shropshire hills – this sort of activity is often led by student interest and demand, with things happening throughout the year. Through these sessions we hope to normalise the conversations around mental health and equip ourselves with tools that help us to take care of our own wellbeing.

Our Wellbeing Advisors are also available via appointment or drop-in, to provide one-to-one, confidential advice, guidance and support to any student that wishes to discuss their mental health. We work closely with each student to discuss the issues affecting them and if necessary we will support them in accessing further professional help. Within the University, students can be referred to our Mental Health Advisors – qualified Mental Health Practitioners who also work one-to-one with our students to provide specialist support for more complex issues. Additionally, we have a University counselling service which students can refer themselves to, again on a completely confidential basis.

Importantly, we also recognise that university is only a relatively short period in the lives of our students. Our aim is to work closely with each individual to ensure that they leave UCS as a happy, healthy graduate, ready to make their mark on the world. It is therefore essential that we work closely with our local community when it comes to mental health to provide a network of support that continues outside and beyond a student’s time at UCS. We have referral pathways into various external services, and close working relationships with NHS Mental Health Community Services in Shropshire as well as Shropshire Mind, Samaritans and a whole range of local organisations.

We are marking this year’s World Mental Health Day at UCS by:

  • Delivering a Suicide Prevention workshop for students. Those who can’t attend are encouraged to complete the free online training by Zero Suicide Alliance
     
  • Holding a drop-in session with Shropshire Psychological Therapies to raise awareness of the service and the support it provides
     
  • Hosting NHS staff from Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust to promote membership of the Trust, and encourage students and staff to have their say on how local services are run
     
  • Promoting the Lets Talk Mental Health event at the Hive to find out more about the external services available in Shropshire

For all queries about Student Support and provision of mental health services at UCS, please contact us at ucs.support@chester.ac.uk

 

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