How do we ensure that students have access to authentic and evidence-based digital sources of information and support?
By Pete Quinn, Guest Lecturer, Education University of Hong Kong @peteqconsult
In my well-being project work with universities, student housing providers, colleges and schools in the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong it is clear pre-Covid-19 that there was already a challenge in supporting the wellbeing of University students.
Research1 tells us that for 16-25 year olds2 in the UK the ‘go-to’ for help with mental health challenges is ‘friends’, ‘intimate partners’ and ‘digital sources’. This means parents, carers, tutors or even the dedicated support services in universities and colleges are not on many student’s radar. This appears to be the case in Asia Pacific countries too.
- So how do we ensure that students have access to authentic and evidence based digital sources of information and support?
- How can we equip friends and intimate partners with the information they need to support their peers?
- What else can we do to reduce the impact?
Elsewhere on this Hub3 Young Minds demonstrate that they are a great source of wellbeing information for younger people and because from a peer led organisation the information and advice may be more effective.Pre Covid-19 Student Minds (no relation to ‘Young Minds’) were tasked by the UK government with delivering a University Mental Health Charter that UK Universities are now busy measuring their progress against. Because they are student and evidence led, Student Minds is another ‘go-to’ as they ensure, “...young people have agency, whilst empowering the community around them to have the health literacy and tools to respond”.
Their Coronavirus resource section via https://www.studentminds.org.uk/coronavirus.html and their social media feeds (twitter, Facebook and Instagram) are well worth following and sharing with students you know particularly the blogs and resources based on student experiences.
Similarly ‘digital sources’ for students to engage with include this excellent booklet from Cool Minds (again no relation to Young or Student Minds) produced by young people in Hong Kong, who have persevered through lockdown since January: https://www.coolmindshk.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/6-march-Coolminds-coronavirus-booklet.pdf .
For a UK perspective written by UK students then Rethink have produced an excellent booklet accessed via https://online.flippingbook.com/view/655999/13/ As well as information aimed directly at students experiencing mental health challenges there is also information in both these resources on how to support a friend or a classmate.
Last but not least, the UK Mind website which has a superb section on supporting someone with wellbeing and mental health challenges. (See https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/ )
Reducing the Impact:
Study is inherently stressful but need not be overwhelmingly so. Alongside the sources of support for wellbeing above and platforms like the Big white Wall, which many students can access via their University or College, or ‘Kooth’, a free, safe and anonymous online support for young people in England there are a number of apps and Assistive Technology (AT) to help with the practical elements of study. These apps and AT can alleviate stress and the root of stress outside of the learning environment, predominantly financial concern.
Diversity & Ability are a great source of information on how to use assistive technology and apps to support successful study. You can find their guides via #RemoteResourcesWeek on twitter or via https://diversityandability.com/blog/remote-resource-5-assistive-technology-free-trials where they highlight free to use or free to try packages.
Blackbullion is a financial literacy platform that educates and supports students on financial issues. Alongside stress and mental health challenges, worries about money are one of the biggest challenges students need to overcome. Using this platform and information resources via https://www.blackbullion.com/ will help students do so.
Making a Difference:
Doing things for others in your family or community, whether this be small and unplanned acts or regular volunteering, is a powerful way to boost your own happiness and improve the wellbeing of those around you. Giving does not necessarily involve money and many students are finding engaging with and supporting their community improves their well-being and increases their happiness. A quick and easy way to do this is using the ‘Action for Happiness’ app which gives ideas and ‘nudges’ each day based on research and evidence. Whether through the app at https://www.actionforhappiness.org/smartphone-app or the wider visual and practical resources on the site. Students giving back to their community is strongly evidenced to be a good way of increasing their own well-being and can reduce the impacts of poor wellbeing.
Accessing the apps, guidance and student contributions to the above resources should enable students to make better progress through Covid-19 lockdown, remote learning and emerge with experience of learning about, and managing, their well-being and the well-being of others.
Pete Quinn provides critical friend support, mentoring and operational and strategic reviews based on prior Equality, Diversity & Inclusion experience at the Universities of Oxford and York as well as projects for a range of Universities and Colleges, housing, corporate and arts sector clients.
Pete is a guest lecturer at the Education University of Hong Kong and, alongside health and wellbeing strategy work for Durham University, has recently provided well-being consultancy to Universities and Polytechnics in Singapore and throughout the UK. See https://petequinnconsulting.co.uk/ for more information.
the majority student age group although not the only age group albeit that the student body is diverse in many ways including the welcome inclusion of many mature and commuting students (over 25)