Mental Health Today Wales: Wednesday 20th May 2015
Exhibition & Conference
Exploring mental health across the life course
On 20th May 2015, Fiona Rickard and Cheryl Parkinson, members of the University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN) and Mental Health Advisers (Cynghorwr Iechyd Meddwl) from Bangor University, presented at the Mental Health Today Wales conference. The topic discussed was student mental health and support in Higher and Further Education. Cheryl & Fiona presented alongside Katie Dalton from Gofal and Beth Button, the president of NUS Wales. If you missed it, have a read of our highlights of the Day, below.
The Keynote address, given by Dr. Dave Williams (divisional director family and therapy services in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board), discussed implementation and progress in mental health in Wales, focusing on engagement on both a government and practitioner level. Whilst the conference focused on mental health and services in Wales, the Keynote addressed that "It is not just Wales... It is something we need to be talking about and thinking about across the UK and globally."
Eating Disorders & Mental Health:
In a specialist area session, Ewan Hilton (Executive Director of Gofal) and James Downs (previous service user) discussed myths and facts surrounding eating disorders and mental health. The speakers discussed the disparity of investment in understanding causes between mental health and physical health with "5.5% of UK health research spent on mental health.... 100x less investment per head than cancer research.”
"The big thing with eating disorders, and mental health in general, is that there is so little robust research and a lack of parity in research."
The presentation ended with the myths and facts surrounding recovery; Is recovery possible? "I think recovery starts with your own individual story and listening to the individual." - Ewan Hilton. When talking about his own experiences, James discussed levels of misunderstanding when speaking to GPs and professionals and discussed how essential it is to give hope to service users: "It wasn't until recently that professionals started giving me pro-recovery messages.... The message that recovery is possible is really important at all times. Professionals and services need to instill hope in their service users."
Building Resilience with Children & Young People
“What is resilience? Managing to cope with uncertainty.”
In this session, Sarah Henderson & Laura Brown (Newport Mind) shared the Resilience Framework, pinpointing factors that can help build resilience, demonstrating that everyone can become resilient in one way or another and that resilience can fluctuate within individuals. Staff from Newport Mind discussed the benefits of peer support in mental health: “young people constantly tell us they find it easier to talk to other young people”.
Student Mental Health – Support in Higher and Further Education
Beginning with a presentation from members of UMHAN & Mental Health Advisers at Bangor University, Fiona Rickard and Cheryl Parkinson, discussed the benefits of joining the University Mental Health Advisers Network: “The network allows us to keep in contact with other Mental Health Advisers across the UK, to share best practice and help support students with mental health difficulties.” They then went on to discuss the student support available at Bangor University:
“In student support at Bangor University, we have close links with colleagues in other services but we are placed in the Disability Support Service… As Mental Health Advisers, our role is to advise on mental health difficulties, we cover a whole range of difficulties and ages – from 18 year old's to mature students.”
Cheryl & Fiona covered the pathway of referrals and disclosure at Bangor University, beginning with the start of the student journey… At Bangor University, if a prospective student discloses a mental health difficulty via the UCAS form, this information will go to the Mental Health Advisers who can provide support with applying for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). In terms of the transition to university, prospective students may meet with the Mental Health Advisers before moving or starting their course. At the start of a degree course, the student and Mental Health Advisers will create a learning support plan, putting reasonable adjustments in place or applying for DSA to help fund student mentors to help a student to continue their studies.
Many students do come forward for mental health support, though there will always be some whom we don't see. “Students will present at any point during the university process… They may get to the end of the course and only then seek out support. We just make sure that students know about us and the support available so that they can access the service when needed.” To help make people aware of the support available, the Student Support Services link in with Bangor University Students' Union, for example in signing the Time to Change pledge and gaining support for University Mental Health & Wellbeing Day. The Mental Health Advisers can support students to cope with their work load whilst encouraging them to maintain a work/life balance rather than feeling guilty for taking a break.
One common misconception is that Mental Health Advisers only support students with a diagnosis, but Cheryl & Fiona explained that this is not solely the case as they may support students who are stressed or anxious without a diagnosed difficulty. Whilst it is not the role of a Mental Health Adviser to be a Counsellor, the Mental Health Advisers at Bangor University discussed their links with the Counselling Service and referring to Counselling when appropriate.
“There are lots of different ways to access support… across the spectrum of difficulties and support available… We encourage students to find what works best for them.” - Mental Health Advisers & UMHAN Members.
Cheryl & Fiona highlighted the importance of being aware of the support available as somethings may work better for you than others. This may include Mental Health Advisers, Counselling Services, student-led support services such as Nightline, online resources, third sector organisations or NHS services. Having various support options and finding what works best for you links to the increased independence that university brings.
Katie Dalton, Public Affairs Manager for Gofal, and Beth Button, President of NUS Wales, followed the UMHAN presentation by discussing the Student Mental Health Toolkit. The Toolkit contains basic mental health information for Sabbatical Officers and information of primary mental health services in Wales.: “Student Union's not only care about their students wellbeing but also about the staff.”
“We need generational change toward mental health attitudes and it's clear that we have more work to do to make this happen.” - Katie Dalton, Gofal.
Dan Doran, UMHAN Chair