The Students’ Union has always been mindful of people’s Mental Health (MH), and started to really campaign to raise awareness in 2017. With the momentum building, we have sought out new and innovative ways to engage with our students, including staff becoming registered Student Minds Trainers for “Look After Your Mate” training courses which have been delivered to students and SU Club execs. Building on this progress we discussed a number of options for 2019, and began planning our most interactive event so far.
Based on our dealings with students on a day-to-day basis, we realised that most students are quite ‘hardy’ in the psychological sense, and that a great way to support them was through self-help aides. This gave us the idea to create MH Self-Care kits. These are widely recognised as useful tools for maintaining and improving MH, helping cope with difficult times and allowing people to remain focused and grounded. For the Self-Care kits we wanted to provide sensory items that looked, felt, smelled and tasted good as well as key information to help students engage with the wellbeing services both at Harper and in the local area.
Reaching out to companies we secured sponsorship from ChattyFeet (check out their incredible designs here: www.chattyfeet.com – our favourite is definitely the Toeminator!) for dozens of pairs of premium quality socks, and began to build the self-help kits. We included a variety of essential oils for students to pick their favourites from, tea, coffee and hot chocolate sachets making sure they always had one for themselves and one for a friend, we added in some post-its and notepads to help students start to journal and create daily gratitude lists. We were also able to provide sweet treats including Haribo and Oreos, and a pack of always-useful tissues. We also included helpful guides and contact information for local health services, the Farming Community Network who also provided the immeasurably welcome stress cows as well as staff at Harper who can help in times of need.
We realised however that the items included were only part of it; they needed to be presented and stored in a manner that would be durable, useful and something students could personalise. This was why we chose chunky wooden boxes with hinged lids, welcoming students to decorate them how they see fit post-event. We’ve been amazed by their artistic ability so far in making the boxes their own! We knew that if we gave students something that could be filled with their go-to items and stored under a bed, on a shelf or even on a desk that it wouldn’t look out of place, and would serve them during their time at Harper and beyond.
Set to launch on UMH Day on 7th March, myself and other staff members heavily organised the delivery down to the last detail, the only thing we didn’t factor in was how popular the event was. We were inundated with students who wanted to get involved, and we got to speak to a broad range of students from all courses and backgrounds, finding out more about them and how the boxes would help them.
Throughout the day we were also heavily involved on social media, using the HASU Facebook pages to share messages of support, tips and guidance in line with Student Minds social media promotion guides, reaching thousands by the close of the event.
As well as being able to speak to students on the day, we sent out a post-event survey to learn more about the students and the MH issues they feel are important. With a great response rate we have gained significant insight into the student journey, including valuable data on what we can do help and how best we can deliver that for the students. During our post-event debrief, SU staff all concluded that the student feedback we had received was overwhelmingly positive, and that there are learning points we can take away to be able to deliver the event even better if repeated in the future.
The SU are committed to supporting students with their MH however we can, whether it’s signposting to services on campus, helping students engage with the social program or just being a good ear to listen without judgement. In the third term we are looking at a variety of events, understanding that the exam period is a particularly stressful time so we must as a Union support our members as much as possible.
Andy Jefferies HASU
(Note: The event took place in two locations across campus. The boxes pictured here in Faccenda were only half of the total number we gave out!)