By Daniella Theis
Strathclyde Student Parliament has passed a new Mental Health Agreement designed to improve the culture around mental health on campus today.
The agreement is set to lay the groundwork to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of students is kept at the forefront of all activity and operations and will be reviewed on an on-going basis. It includes a combination of direct calls to action mixed with monitoring processes that conclude the effectiveness of each action.
“Myself and Eilidh – the VP Sport – have been taking the lead on this since we came into post,” says Benn Rapson – Strath Union’s Vice President Welfare. He adds: “The bulk of this was actually done by Maddy Watson – the former VP Sport. It had been a project that she had been working on last year. But because we had the global pandemic, there just wasn’t the time to finish it off, tidy it up, and get it ready; so we took it over.”
The four main working areas – communication and engagement, training and education, social inclusion, and healthy lifestyle – include calls to action such as improvement of the promotion of key student support services; social media promotion of “Wellbeing Wednesday”; Bespoke mental health first-aid training for clubs, societies, sabbatical officers, and staff; targeted support for students who may face additional barriers; as well as looking at ways the University can encourage students to participate in activities that will promote their mental wellbeing.
“The training and education section is basically ensuring that both staff and students are mental health aware and equipped to deal with mental health issues in a variety of ways,” explains Rapson: “This can mean students being able to identify when they need to reach out for support but also lecturers being able to identify when students are struggling. Essentially leading to having a culture of support at Strathclyde.”
The agreement was previously already approved by the Student Experience Committee (SEC) – a joint committee of the Student Union and the University underpinned by the Student Partnership Agreement – and was then ready to be discussed at the first parliament session of this semester today.
With the agreement now voted in, it needs signed off by Student President Kayla-Megan Burns and a representative of the University before being officially implemented. After that there will be a working group that will report to both the SEC and Student Parliament.
VP Welfare Rapson notes that while the agreement is a step in the right direction, there will still be things that need to be built upon.
He says: “The working group will keep an eye on the existing agreement and make sure it’s been followed and things are getting actioned upon. We will also instantly start developing the Student Mental Health Agreement 2020/21. This gives an opportunity to build on and improve on what is there. The working group will be chaired by myself and my successors. This means students are very much in the driving seat in terms of where this goes and I do think there are areas in which we can improve on next year.
“I just wanted to get the ball rolling essentially. The University now has this document and this is now a process that gets done every year. That means that every year we should be looking to make improvements to the culture and mental health support at Strathclyde. In theory, that means year on year the culture around mental health at Strathclyde should get better and better. “