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“A healthy university (HU) is one which aspires to create a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances the health, well-being and sustainability of its community and enables people to achieve their full potential.” (Healthy universities network, 2010)

The number of students disclosing a mental health condition to their higher education institution is increasing. In 2007-2008 just 1,260 postgraduates and 8,415 undergraduates sought support for mental health difficulties.  In 2016-2017 this had increased to 8,040 postgraduates and 49,265 undergraduates. (Minding our future: Universities UK)

We firmly believe that positive mental health support is not just crisis management, but moreover the promotion of good emotional wellbeing and interventions that are proactive and always with the student at their core. We strive to promote dignity, autonomy and resilience through all that we do. We want to fight the stigma that surrounds mental health, and change the way we think and act in response to these difficulties. Here at the University of Chester we believe that mental health should be out in the open and are striving to operate a whole university response to mental health.

In line with these values, we have an integrated Student Support and Development services comprising: a Wellbeing and Mental Health team (including Student Wellbeing Advisers, Mental Health Advisers and Student Counselling), Disability and Inclusion, Volunteering & Mentoring, Induction & Transition, the Proctor’s Office and financial support. 

We currently have three Mental Health Advisers: myself (Ella), Emma and Tom. We all have professional backgrounds in mental health nursing and social work. Whilst we remain registered with our respective professional bodies, we work at the University in an advisory capacity and are not able to deliver therapeutic interventions. That said, we can provide students with information around a range of mental health difficulties and can also support you in accessing and using self-help materials. We aim to offer services across all of our campuses and ensure that any campaigns we undertake reach all of our university sites.

In addition to offering individual face to face sessions (or telephone appointments if students prefer), we are also in the process of developing groups and have submitted a proposal to run some focus groups to capture the student voice and make sure their needs are at the core of our service delivery.

We also now have a university-based Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) called Gemma, who can provide low level intervention for mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Additionally, the University also has a counselling team, consisting of Jamie, Richard, Chris and Louise, who offer a consultation and up to four sessions, and provide a space for students to explore their values and make sense of their experiences.

Students can self-refer into counselling by emailing student.counselling@chester.ac.uk and if you have any mental health concerns you can email wellbeing@chester.ac.uk, where your query will be triaged by one of our team to decide which service will best meet your needs. Referrals to the PWP can be completed by staff within our department.

In addition to this, we can act as the link between students and local mental health services should a need be identified for this level of specialist support. We work alongside services spanning Cheshire, Merseyside, North Wales and Shropshire. We can also liaise with teams from further afield to make sure our students have positive experiences of transitions in and out of university, and that they have timely access to the support they need from the most appropriate service available to them.

The breadth of expertise within our department shows the commitment we have to our students and to ensuring they have the best possible university experience. We actively seek feedback from our student body and are constantly striving to improve the service we provide.

 “Health is created and lived by people within the settings of their everyday life; where they learn, work, play and love.” (WHO, 1986)

 

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