University staff learning how to support student wellbeing

e-learning platform -  senior counsellor Karen Morgan .jpgManchester Metropolitan University is leading the way in helping to support students who may be experiencing mental health problems.

The University has piloted a new nationwide e-learning programme which aims to equip staff from porters to caterers with the skills to spot and respond to signs of distress amongst students including depression, anxiety, homesickness and low self-esteem.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has also thrown his support behind the initiative, which was launched by mental health charity the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust at the University yesterday.

Powerful tool

Andy Burnham said: “This is a really powerful tool created by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust – and it’s very good that it’s aimed at non-specialist staff.

“I want to send a signal that this is a priority for me and I would like to say well done to the Trust on a fantastic development for mental health.

“This initiative highlights the need to work more closely with the third sector to improve mental health and wellbeing support.”

Six sessions

Manchester Metropolitan is now encouraging all relevant staff to complete the free e-learning programme which consists of six easy-to-follow 20 minute sessions including signs to look out for, key helping skills, knowing who else to involve and supporting students at risk or in crisis.

A number of Manchester Metropolitan University staff, including some tutors and some of those in the student hubs, piloted the training last year and helped shape its development by providing feedback.

Proud of involvement

Yvonne Harris, Head of Counselling, Health and Wellbeing at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “We are proud to be one of the earliest adopters of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust e-learning portal for university staff. This useful tool can help non-specialist staff who can often feel out of their depth when they meet a student with mental health difficulties.

“We already offer training but this gives them even more information to assist them understand the issues. It helps them feel more comfortable in their approach to the subject and arms them with the confidence to be able to refer students to the appropriate specialist services sensitively and quickly.”

All members of staff at Manchester Metropolitan University will have access to the e-learning system and will be strongly encouraged to complete the training.

Pastol care a priority

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan University, who spoke at the launch, said: “The pastoral care of our students is a priority for the University and as such we welcome the opportunity to utilise such an insightful and practical tool to best equip our staff to identify and respond to students with mental health difficulties.

“By completing the e-portal training, academic and non-academic staff alike will enrich the support they give to our learners and help them make the most of their experience here at Manchester Metropolitan University.”

Great example

The e-learning platform is available at http://learning.cwmt.org.uk

Clare Stafford, CEO of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, said: “It is often those such as porters or caterers who are in the front line when it comes to chatting to students and that first conversation can make all the difference.

“We are hoping that universities across the country will follow the great example being set by MMU by encouraging their staff to take part in the e-learning programme.”