Continuing the Conversation after University Mental Health Day // Features

On the 7th of March, King’s College London and many universities across the UK participated in University Mental Health Day, an initiative led by Student Minds and UMHAN (the University Mental Health Advisers Network).
ThinkMental collaborated with KCLSU, My Mind Matters Too and Our Shared Health to put on a number of events and talks across the campuses (namely Waterloo, Strand, Guy’s and Bush House).

Some of the highlights of the day included:
* the ‘blackboard sessions’ where we encouraged students passing by on their way to class to write down what made them smile or what helped them with their mental health,
* an international talk and lunch,
* a talk hosted by the previous president of the ThinkMental society on being an advocate for breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health
* pop up stalls that explained who we are as a society and offered information on the support that is available to students during their time at King’s.

The overall theme of university mental health day this year was ‘use your voice‘ and, over the course of the day, many students across King’s were joining the conversation about student mental health which was absolutely amazing to witness. Mental health is something that everyone of us has, and everyone of us should take seriously. University can be an amazing time for many people, yet it also brings with it a number of unique and difficult challenges; you might be living away from home for the first time, in a different city or country, perhaps even a different continent!
Exam pressures and worries about the future can also play their part in adding to the stress and the journey of becoming an independent fully-functioning adult is not a straightforward one. University mental health day may have passed, but we can continue to speak up, and break stigmas down, by not being afraid or ashamed to strike up conversations about mental health throughout the year.

In the spirit of keeping the conversations flowing, Matt and I met with Stevie Griffiths, Associate Director (Counselling and Mental Health Support) at King’s. She was able to enlighten us on some aspects of student support that we were unclear on and we were able to share with her the sort of things we, as a society, have gotten up to this year and hope to do in the future.

There are currently 13 FTE counsellors at KCL and the team are working with Academic Support to train more academic staff, particularly in the case of personal tutors, to be able to guide students to the support that is right for them. When a student applies to the university counselling service, the initial triaging process involves looking at the score the student obtained on the questionnaire, reading the self report the student filled out on why they feel they are in need of counselling and finally taking into account any other considerations such as the availability the student can commit to and whether or not they state a preference for a male or female counsellor. Something that really stood out to me in our conversation with Stevie was the fact that each of these applications, every form that comes through, is read by a senior practitioner. Every application is taken seriously. It was clear from our discussion that Stevie and the counselling team care deeply for the welfare of students at King’s and are determined to provide struggling students with the support that they need.

After the initial assessment, it is then determined whether the student might require CBT or alternatively psycho-dynamic therapy, or perhaps whether they would benefit from a course of focus groups that run throughout the year. Some of the themes of these groups include sessions focused on bereavement, mood and food and sessions for those struggling with gender identity issues. There is a specific team that concentrates on these groups and a new counselling psychologist, who specialises in small groups like this, has just been appointed.

Nicole Hannon,

ThinkMental Campaign Officer