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10 October 2013

Deputy Minister marks World Mental Health Day with launch of student mental health toolkit

Ken Skates AMDeputy Minister for Skills and Technology Ken Skates AM will mark World Mental Health Day (October 10th) by launching a student mental health toolkit at the University of South Wales Students’ Union, Pontypridd.

The launch will form part of the National Union of Students in Wales (NUS Wales) ‘Mental Health Bootcamp’, which will bring together students’ union officers, representatives and staff members from Wales’ colleges and universities to discuss student mental health and wellbeing through a series of workshops.

As the national representative body for students, NUS Wales has been working with leading Welsh mental health and wellbeing charity Gofal to create the toolkit, which includes a 12-page information booklet for individual students Student bookletand a series of briefings for students’ union officers and representatives.

The toolkit highlights that one in four people experience mental health problems in any given year and that this statistic could equate to one in four students in any lecture theatre, student bar and halls of residence. It recognises that going to college or university can be a challenging time in people’s lives, with new and different routines and pressures requiring students to balance lectures and coursework with employment, social activities or family and caring responsibilities.

The student information booklet includes information, myths and facts about mental health; provides a series of ‘talking tips’ to help and encourage students to talk openly about mental health problems; and informs students about a range of national helplines and improvements to local primary mental health support services.

The students’ union officer briefing includes information about mental health issues; advice about supporting students with mental health problems; and campaign ideas for improving students support services and student mental health and wellbeing on campus.

The toolkit is being launched a year after the Welsh Government strategy Together for Mental Health, which calls for action across a range of sectors – including education – to improve mental health and wellbeing in Wales. Together for Mental Health recognises the challenges that face students in Wales and requires the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to ensure that university tuition fee plans detail appropriate investment and provision of student support services.

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology Ken Skates said:

“This is a really exciting time of year for students who are starting university or college. That said, it’s important to remember just how challenging this time can be as they try and make the transition to an entirely different way of life.

“Together with the academic pressures and stresses that a new course can sometimes bring, students are also trying to make new friends and get used to living away from home for the first time.

“These factors can all contribute to mental ill health and that’s why it’s so important that students know there is support available for them when things get tough. It’s equally important that volunteers in students’ unions know the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and are able to give the right kind of support.

“That’s why I’m so pleased that this new toolkit and supporting guidance has been published. It’s really important that we encourage students to talk frankly and openly about mental health, give them the right support when they need it and help them to enjoy their time at college or university.”

Gofal Executive Director Ewan Hilton said:

“The Welsh Government has made it clear that all sectors need to contribute to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people in Wales and we are delighted to have worked with NUS Wales to produce this toolkit for students in further and higher education.

“We hope that it will improve knowledge and understanding of mental health issues and support services, as well as encourage students to talk openly about mental health and help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.”

NUS Wales Deputy President Beth Button said:

NUS Wales logo"College and university can be a challenging time for students. With one in four students being affected by mental health issues whilst studying, it's really important that we are equipping and supporting both the volunteers in our students' unions, and the wider student body, to be able to promote and support mental health and wellbeing within their institutions.

"This is why NUS Wales is so excited to be working with leading mental health charity Gofal on producing these supportive documents".

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