Mental health matters
Date: 5th Apr 2016
Buckinghamshire New University is committed to meeting the mental health needs of its students and staff. It does so by increasing awareness and creating an environment where people are encouraged to talk about mental ill heath without fear, rejection or prejudice. The University also provides support to help those affected with their studies and at work.
The University's Disability Service liaises with Faculty staff to support affected students by providing tailored internal reasonable adjustments. These may include additional time in exams and finding the most appropriate placement opportunities. The Disability Service also guides students through the process of applying for the Disabled Students Allowances to help fund the cost of specialist equipment, including laptops or recording devices, or the provision of non-medical human support such as specialist mentors, tutors for specific learning difficulties, note-takers and scribes for exams. The service also supports students on placements and those completing their programmes of study by distance learning.
Jenny Hodder, who works in the Disability Service team, said: "Disability does not only relate to physical conditions. Mental health issues may not always be visible but pose their own challenges. Our team supports students to minimise any obstacles to their academic success and encourage independent learning. We want to enhance our students' overall experience, by creating a level playing field with other students and providing guidance and signposting to sources of further advice."
Free screening is also provided for students who think they may be dyslexic. Jenny commented: "Not all universities offer this screening but we're committed to supporting our students by identifying any specific learning difficulties. This support makes a real difference: I know students who failed their first year at other universities and then went on to graduate with an upper second honours at Bucks. We help students to realise that conditions such as dyslexia are not a block to academic success."
A counselling service for students which can be accessed in person, by telephone, email and via SMS is also provided by the University. The Senior Residents in the university's accommodation sites are an important point of contact for students and are provided with specific mental health training to provide immediate support, such as helping someone cope with a panic attack.
Bucks Students' Union works with the University to promote mental health and is launching its Mental Health Awareness campaign in late October. Activities will include mental health awareness training, free Pilates and Qigong sessions, free massages, theatre workshops and a short-film competition.
Jenny Wade, Vice President for Education and Welfare at Bucks Students' Union, said: "The number of people, including students, with depression and other serious mental health needs is dramatically on the rise. We need to be talking openly about these issues and supporting each other throughout the University. The support available here at Bucks is exceptional and I hope our campaign encourages our members to engage with these services and create an inclusive, safe-space environment across our campuses."
The University's staff are also given the opportunity to declare mental health issues and discuss the reasonable adjustments that can be made to help them in the workplace. Mental health training is part of the disability training for new members of staff to help build awareness of and understanding about mental health.
Pam Owen, Diversity Manager for the University, said: "It's often the little things that can make a big difference."
The University holds Wellbeing Days for students and staff, supports mental health related campaigns, including Time for Change, and has become part of the Mindful Employer network.