Focusing on the Mental Health Wellbeing of Students in Wales; MENTAL HEALTH COLUMN Ewan Hilton Is the Executive Director of Gofal Cymru

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ON WORLD Mental Health Day we were delighted to launch our new student mental health toolkit, which we have developed in partnership with the National Union of Students in Wales (NUS Wales).

Deputy Minister for Skills Ken Skates AM launched the toolkit at the University of South Wales Students' Union to an audience of student representatives from further and higher education.

He spoke passionately about student mental health and wellbeing, reflecting on his own experience at university and announcing that the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) would be extending Mental Health First Aid training to all staff in Welsh higher education.

Those attending reflected on the challenges facing many students, including financial pressures, new environments and the need to balance lectures and essays with employment, social activities or family and caring responsibilities.

In addition, many first-year undergraduates also move away from home, leaving their family, friends and support networks behind. It is easy to become isolated and difficult to know where to find help.

It can be especially tough for the thousands of international students who face the added challenges of a new country, culture and/or language.

At an NUS Wales training event earlier this year, representatives recognised that many students experience mental health problems for the first time at college or university and told us that they wanted to be better equipped to support them.

They were all passionate about mental health and wellbeing but felt that many of them and their peers did not have enough awareness, knowledge or understanding of this issue.

They said that they wanted to be better prepared and informed to support and signpost students, as well as more confident to talk about mental health problems and campaign for improved mental health and wellbeing on campus. They were also keen to break down the stigma surrounding mental health problems and secure training for staff and students.

As a result of these discussions, we developed a 12-page information booklet for students and a series of briefings for students' union representatives.

The student information booklet provides information, myths, and facts about mental health and some talking tips to help and encourage students to talk openly about mental health problems. It also includes a range of national helplines and information about accessing 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 increasing the provision of student support services and improving student mental health and wellbeing. …