2020-Mental health boost for students

Mental health boost for students emerging from COVID-19 lockdown

Wed, 05 Aug 2020 09:45:00 BST
GCU staff are being trained to support student mental health and wellbeing
GCU staff are being trained to support student mental health and wellbeing

Santander, through Santander Universities, is supporting Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) with £25,000 of funding to help train staff to support student mental health and wellbeing.

Working alongside the University's Students' Association and SAMH (the Scottish Association for Mental Health), GCU will use the funding to train around 300 staff who work directly with students. This includes Senior Managers, Programme Leaders and Directors of Study​. They will learn how to help students who are struggling with the ‘new normal’ of learning online, socialising while social distancing and virtual classrooms, as well as negative experiences of lockdown, anxiety around their livelihoods, health concerns and conditions such as agoraphobia.

Fiona Campbell, GCU's Director of People, said: "We are delighted and grateful to Santander for their ongoing support and look forward to working with them and with SAMH to ensure our staff are confident and equipped to support our students through incredibly difficult times. The training programme will support staff in understanding mental health issues both for themselves and for their students. It will ensure they can deal appropriately with students discussing their concerns and have the tools to manage the conversation, actively listen, know how and when to de-escalate and reassure students who are for example experiencing ‘normal’ exam stress, and know when and how to refer to one of our other specialist teams for more serious concerns. The training builds on our support for staff and student wellbeing that is at the core of our community at GCU."​

Matt Hutnell, Director of Santander Universities, said: "Santander is committed to supporting higher education as well as local communities across the UK, so we're pleased that our funding is able to be redirected to where it is most needed at this critical time. Glasgow Caledonian University is doing fantastic work to contribute to the UK's effort to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, so we're delighted to collaborate in a way which increases their response effort and look forward to continuing to work with them on supporting both students and the broader higher education community with further initiatives over the coming months."

Fiona Benton, Assistant Director of Delivery and Development at SAMH, said: “SAMH has been working for Scotland’s mental health since 1923, and we are delighted that GCU has chosen us to deliver this training. Both University staff and students are living through unprecedented times, so it is important that the right mental health support is readily available.

“We believe that everyone with a role in a young person’s life should be confident that they can help. This training will give staff the tools to maintain their own wellbeing, and, importantly, the confidence to support students who may be experiencing mental health problems.”

With the funding now in place, discussions will begin with SAMH around the development of the modules. The modules will be adapted for GCU from existing SAMH modules to ensure they are tailored to a university setting and take into account additional challenges students might face as a result of COVID-19. Staff training is planned to start early in the academic year 2020/21.

The funding follows £25,000 awarded to GCU by Santander Universities in May to support GCU students facing hardship as a result of COVID-19 this summer. GCU Foundation is using the funding to provide bursaries of £500 and £1000 for students who are experiencing financial difficulty as a result of lost income or a change in circumstances. It is part of £4.5 million of funding Santander has awarded to its university partners across the UK to support the array of initiatives launched by universities to contribute to the national effort to combat the outbreak of COVID-19.

Santander, through Santander Universities, has supported higher education across the UK over the past decade with scholarships; student employability initiatives and funding to encourage innovation and promote entrepreneurial activity. With the current pandemic presenting many new challenges for students, universities and the local community, Santander​ is both repurposing and providing additional funding to ensure immediate support to alleviate health and educational challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis. ​