Mental Health May

University redevelopments: will they shine up the wellbeing services too?

After a long hard look into the support services offered at the uni, including trying to bridge a gap for wellbeing outreach, applying as an ALS (Accommodation Liaison Student), and trying to open an advice column, Brig has finally managed to get news about the university’s plans for improvement.

Despite winning RATE awards within student service, wellbeing support is one of the areas where the University of Stirling’s services are lacking. For one, the waiting list for on-campus counselling is ridiculously long. That is not just a rumour, but it has been corroborated through the Counselling Triage, and Student Learning Services.

Most importantly, the Counselling Triage suggests that anyone seeking counselling treatment fill out an application for counselling assessment, found in physical formats at the Student Hub, just across from the bus stops outside Macrobert, or on the university website when searching for “counselling”. However, it seems that the procedure is to email students asking them to call like a sale on Black Friday.

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Brig decided to look into how the counselling service is different from what they call a “self-help service”, like helplines and chat forums. It seems that, after handing in a form, applicants must wait a long while for attempted schedulings via email in a first-come first-serve style. We considered this unproductive, and decided to call the Triage. We asked why students are the ones to call if they have filled out an assessment and contact forms, and thus, are on the wait list.

The polite person who answered, named Alan McGillivray, said he didn’t have contact information at hand, even though they should have it at hand in case a spot becomes free. Upon having expressed how this was not ideal when dealing with students or persons who are mind-clogged enough already, a few days later, when a spot became available on the list, he called directly to offer an appointment.

It was manageable to get an assessment through consistently contacting them, as it is true they have a lot of contact information to keep track of – just make sure you match your eagerness to your need for counselling, as many people are waiting.

However, not all students can be bothered with this borderline harassing method. The assessment took place over two months ago, and we were informed there would be no counselling available until September due to the volume of applicants.

Having previously spoken to Student Learning Services employees Lynn Maher and Alban Dickson about improving this, it was said that they “wanted to fill the gap between students and the support services offered [outside the university]”, and that perhaps a remodelling of STEER would be in order – but no recent action has been taken.

We decided to try to help bridge the gap, so we e-mailed Union President Astrid Smallenbroek, the Counselling Triage, and Accommodation services, where we learned that plans for training and outreach are underway. It just so happens, says the Head of Guidance and Wellbeing, Erin Russell, that there are plans for an “exciting outreach programme for the Counselling team”. More information will be available in August, so stay updated on Brig’s website.

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Additionally, it looks like the Accommodation Services aim to improve the offered student support as well, having apparently taken the past sexual assault charges against accommodation officers and students seriously. The prospective ALS candidates were interviewed with questions predominantly concerning their awareness surrounding mental wellbeing and special needs consideration. They will be undertaking the usual first aid training for two weeks during June, and additionally, a course on sexual violence delivered by Graham Goulden, an experienced violence prevention trainer.

In the violence prevention training briefing, they wrote: “We don’t tolerate sexual violence in any form, and we want to ensure our people feel comfortable challenging and reporting any unacceptable behaviours, safe in the knowledge that they will be believed and supported.”

Their relatively new strategy, which was approved by University Court in 2016, is ‘aimed at Preventing & Tackling Sexual Violence, jointly owned and developed by the University and the Students’ Union. The strategy was developed in partnership with a range of external experts, including Rape Crisis Forth Valley, Police Scotland, including the Violence Reduction Unit Scotland, the National Rape Task Force, and local officers, Stirling & District Women’s Aid, and the local Gender Based Violence Partnership, among others.’

Finally, last but not least, Brig will be setting up their very own advice column for lighter topics and everyday hustles, where you will be able to send in partially anonymous stories or questions for a response to brighten your day. We hope to also create a Facebook page where we can help defer the demand for counseling or drop-ins by referring to outside sources of help.

These improvements will certainly be a reality by next semester, according to the Head of Guidance and Wellbeing, so in accordance with the aesthetic upgrades to campus, the students will hopefully be feeling just as sparkly new as the buildings.

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