A 2022 survey by student market research consultancy Cibyl[i] highlights growing concern for the mental health and wellbeing of students and graduates. It found that 81 per cent of students surveyed had experienced mental health difficulties, compared with 60 per cent in 2021, and 91 per cent of LGBTQ+ students are experiencing mental health challenges. Loneliness was a significant and continuing issue too, with 27% of students saying that they do not have any friends at university.
In Mental Health Awareness Week (15 to 21 May)[ii] the University of Northampton (UON) is supporting the mental wellbeing of students and the wider community through its innovative Health Academy, set up during the pandemic but now a permanent fixture at the university.
The Health Academy is a seven-week practice placement opportunity at the University’s Waterside Campus. Started in July 2021, it helps mental health nursing students meet clinical practice placement hours – a core part of their degrees – and enables them to deliver health and wellbeing initiatives for other students, staff, and visitors who are on campus.
The scheme is the brainchild of student Charlotte Kumi and Iain Schrantz, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Nursing who produced the idea during the pandemic as a proactive way to promote mental health awareness and provide interventions to students, staff and the wider community.
Since then, thirty-four mental health nursing students have delivered over 2600 mental wellbeing interventions for fellow students, university staff and the wider community. These include activities to reduce stress, mindfulness sessions, tips for wellbeing and healthy eating, as well as physical health check ins. The initiative has been so successful it will continue as a permanent placement opportunity for second-year mental health nursing students, with new developments including a massage chair and a sensory room to help people relax.
The Health Academy is so successful, it has been nominated for a Student Nursing Times Award in the ‘Teaching Innovation of the Year’ category.
Iain Schrantz said: “Good mental and physical wellbeing when you are studying or working is vital, but it cannot be taken for granted. A worrying number of students suffer from poor mental health. Our mental health nursing students are helping to address this and have done a splendid job supporting the University’s approach to keeping our community healthy. At the same time, they have gained valuable clinical practice and other skills which will help them in their studies and future careers. An idea born during the pandemic has gone from strength to strength and is now a firm fixture on campus and benefiting all.”
As well as clinical practice, Health Academy students can develop other important skills such as confidence and public speaking. One student who is getting the most out of his placement time is Robinson Magbanua: He said: “Being part of the Health Academy is helping my communications skills and I am finding it much easier to approach people, so I feel much more confident.
“The interventions we provide reflect the clinical aspects of our main teaching and learning and help people to understand why looking after their physical and mental health is important. We are busy especially on days when prospective students come to Waterside for their course interviews. They find talking with us useful as they are adjusting to what will be a new world and their new home and we are there to provide extra support. It is great to be part of this team.”
To find out more about UON’s nursing degrees, including the Mental Health Nursing BSc (Hons) click here.
The University of Northampton is part of the Best of Both Worlds recruitment campaign which is shining a light on healthcare careers across the county.