Professor Lynn Kilbride, Vice Principal for Academic Development and Student Experience takes on the role as US lead for mental health following the retirement of Professor Pamela Gillies, Principal of Glasgow Caledonian University. Professor Kilbride has outlined what her priorities during this role will be and the importance of supporting mental health services at university.
In every University we aim to ensure that every student achieves their full potential. However, unless we support their physical and mental health wellbeing this cannot be achieved and in the current climate, we are all finding this very challenging. To determine what students in my institution would like to see the future of teaching and learning look like I facilitated focus groups with both undergraduate and post graduate students in early 2022 and the common theme that resounded from each group was “to learn in a safe and comfortable space where students and staff could learn and be challenged together”. On exploring this further, it was apparent that this request was not solely coming from the desire to be part of the community again post pandemic, it was a need to “feel secure”. Feeling safe and secure allows people to feel self-assured, focus on the present and take considered risks. It allows you to express emotions and seek help without doubts and fear, but: How do we achieve this in Higher Education Institutions?
I am delighted to have been appointed as the Universities Scotland Lead for Student Mental Health and I am looking forward to working with colleagues to build on the work of this group for the foreseeable future. It is my intention in my first few months to continue the momentum of the group to: secure continued funding for mental health counsellors beyond the current financial year ; move forward the work that has been initiated in terms of referral pathways; and ensure that all of the evidence that has been collated over the past year from important work such as the Thriving Learning study and the student poverty round table is used to ensure that the Scottish Government Mental Health Action Plan is impactful for the sector and most importantly our students.
Looking to the medium term, I would like us to take some time to prioritise our areas of focus and action and from this promote and share the sector leading work that is being undertaken in Scotland in terms of these areas of mental health wellbeing so we can scale up activity and have a positive impact on as many students as possible with the resource we have. I would like us to work together and be clear about our responsibilities to student mental health, and help us share this with students and their families/carers so they know what to expect of us in this space. I want us to listen to our students and find out what they need in these current times to make them feel safe and secure in their place of study and learn from their good and bad experiences to help us a sector do all we can. We can do this through many of our existing networks and sharing of experiences and making ourselves open and available for people and groups to approach us.
The purpose of the US Student Mental Health Group is to bring people together to discuss shared issues and I am very much looking forward to facilitating this and in turn making sure we do all we can to support our students.