GCU: Supporting Staff to Support Students
Published on 15 April 2021
Dr Helen L Gallagher, Assistant Vice Principal Health and Wellbeing and Rachel Simpson, Project Officer for Student Mental Health.
At Glasgow Caledonian University our vision is to embed a culture of openness, trust and raised awareness of mental health and wellbeing, which enables both students and staff to thrive and achieve their full potential. We are committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of our people and promoting a healthy learning and working environment. We all have mental health and recognise that our experience of mental health and wellbeing can vary over time; for many of us, shifting between feeling well, happy and resilient to feeling stressed, overwhelmed or temporarily unable to cope. Our mental health impacts on our relationships, our home lives, and our ability to function at study or work, and the disruption of Covid-19 to our lives through lockdown, physical distancing, isolation, working from home, home schooling, cancelled holidays, etc. etc. has undoubtedly impacted the mental wellbeing of all of us. However, with the right support everyone can flourish.
We’ve consulted with our entire staff community (academics, student services, estates, etc.) through surveys and listening events and what is evident is a need and desire to develop our knowledge and awareness of mental health and wellbeing, and importantly our confidence in supporting our each other particularly when it is in decline. In particular, identifying signs/symptoms in students or colleagues and providing appropriate support and guidance. We’ve taken a holistic approach by creating dedicated webpages and online resources, peer support networks and promotional campaigns and events to showcase our resources and increase awareness. However, training is considered to be key for improving the confidence of our staff and supporting them in having meaningful and effective conversations and providing effective signposting to relevant support and resources.
In the 2019/20 academic session, GCU commissioned CoGC to deliver training workshops on: Mental Health Awareness; Developing Personal Resilience; and Positive Psychology. CoGC worked closely with us to ensure the training was contextualised to GCU’s support and referral pathways. The Mental Health training aimed to provide a baseline understanding of mental health, the signs and symptoms of poor mental health to look out for in others and how and where to seek and access support. The Positive Psychology and Developing Personal Resilience workshops supported staff to look after their own mental wellbeing. Uptake for the workshops has been unprecedented and anecdotal feedback from participants has been highly positive.
In 2020/21 we received support from Santander Universities to develop a training programme, in partnership with SAMH, aimed at managers and staff, to provide an enhanced understanding of mental health, crisis management, and suicide awareness and prevention. Once again this was contextualised to GCU. This training is currently underway and targeted at all senior managers, programme leaders and doctoral student supervisors, but our long-term aim is to cascade this to all staff with student facing roles and responsibilities (e.g. personal tutors, programme coordinators, security, student accommodation staff). We recognise that there is an exigent need to train and empower all staff to support our students and colleagues experiencing concerns across the spectrum of mental health and wellbeing and creating a safe space for students to voice their concerns and receive guidance and signposting to effective and apposite support services and resources. It is anticipated this training will underpin a sustainable model and ongoing legacy for GCU to realise a positive, open and fully inclusive culture to support the mental wellbeing of our people.