Wednesday 19 February 2014

Spotlight on Cardiff's Wellbeing Service

Laura King, Intern to Cardiff University Counselling & Wellbeing Services, tells us how they engage with students throughout the year...

This academic year has been a busy one for the Cardiff University Counselling Service & Wellbeing Division. Aside from the day-to-day counselling sessions, workshops and running of the service there have been a number of successful changes made, along with many brilliant events. In September the Student Support Centre welcomed a Mental Health Nurse, whose involvement with the University is part of a two-year pilot project aimed at supporting students with severe and enduring mental health problems. The Mental Health Nurse liaises with the Community Mental Health Team in order to best support students with complex needs, on matters such as psychiatric referrals for example.

It is widely accepted that students may face a greater and differing number of mental health problems compared to the general population. This could be due to the fact that the age range of most students encompasses the age of onset for most mental health disorders, along with the sheer amount of change and upheaval experienced through moving away from home and starting a new course. University also lacks the structure and stability of life at home, which can contribute to problems with mental health, as life at Uni can feel out of control. Late nights, drinking and pressure from deadlines and exams can all contribute to a lack of self-care that can exacerbate pre-existing problems, or simply cause unhealthy stress levels.

Previous NUS studies have found that more than a quarter of students who experience mental health problems do not seek help, and only 1 in 10 access University counselling services. This is unfortunate, as when mental health problems in anyone are spotted early with appropriate treatment and support being put into place, recovery rates are dramatically increased. This is where it is particularly important for support services in higher education to make their services as open and as approachable to students as possible, so that more students utilise them. At Cardiff University, the Counselling and Wellbeing Service has been doing everything possible to ensure that this is the case, so that as many students as possible who need support receive it.

Two of the main events the Counselling Service has taken part in this year to ensure their presence around campus and to inform students of their presence are Mind Your Head Week and National Stress Awareness Day.  Mind Your Head week ran from 7th-11th October across the University. It aimed to increase awareness of mental health issues and hoped to provide students with access to resources and support to enable them to beat homesickness and feel more settled. The Counselling Service held a Catch up with Cake evening on the 7th of October in the Service, to increase familiarity with the building and to give students a way to meet each other in an alcohol-free environment. The Service also held a stall in the Students’ Union to raise awareness of the kind of support available whilst engaging and informing more students. The Wellbeing Team have planned a number of outreach drop in sessions in libraries and even laundrettes (wash and unwind!) to catch students who may need help but find coming into the service intimidating.

In conjunction with the University libraries, the Counselling Service took part in National Stress Awareness Day on the 6th of November. The Service held mini meditation and relaxation workshops in two libraries along with information stalls encouraging students to ‘just ask’ if they had any questions, based on the notion that knowledge and support reduces stress.

In February the Service welcomed the Student Wellbeing Team to the Counselling Service & Wellbeing Division. The Team aims to provide practical wellbeing tips and advice, offering wellbeing drop-in sessions (both face-to-face and online), brief interventions and a variety of workshops.

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