Student Support: ‘We do everything in our power to reduce emotional load’

The University's Mental Health Team open up about their important role within the Student Support Services at Kent

Wellbeing is at the heart of what we do at Kent and studying at Kent Business School and other divisions in the University gives you access to mental health services, counselling, medical services and advice services – alongside many other support networks.  Here, we speak to staff working within the Mental Health Team at Kent for insight into their imperative services.

Which services are available to students? 

All services are available to all divisions – the Student Support and Wellbeing Team deals with students who have physical disabilities, learning issues and mental health problems. 

Mental health advisers work with students with a wide range of mental health issues, both complex and less complicated issues. There is also a counselling service available to students and students can gain access to specialists who work in the fields of sexual assault and harassment, bullying or hate incidents.  There is an out of hours mental health specialist who is based at Nursing Services in the late afternoon and evening.

The University Nursing Service is staffed by registered NHS nurses who are available 24/7 during term time and we also have an NHS medical practice on campus – University Medical Centre – which is on Giles Lane, and has an adjacent pharmacy. Medway students are invited to register with the local practice – more information is available on University health services online.  

The Student Advice service is also available, which is offered via the Student Union. These student services are accessible at both Medway and Canterbury and for each division, Student Experience and Success staff are on hand to refer you to our services. 

How can students access these services, where do they go for help? 

Direct contact can be made to Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) reception at Keynes College Canterbury or The Gillingham Building in Medway or via our website. The SSW Team are contactable face to face, via  email or by Teams. 

Medway's Gillingham Building
Medway’s Gillingham Building is just one location where students can gain access to Student Support

Can students be particularly vulnerable when they start university?  

Most definitely. For many students, going to university is the first time they’ve been away from home and lived alone and this comes with many additional responsibilities; self-care, cooking, financial pressures, new relationships. 

University life is a huge adjustment in itself and students are not always fully prepared for the transition from school to university. The most important thing to do in these situations is to normalise the fact that most people take some time to adapt when big changes occur and that nobody expects you to do this overnight.

We ensure students are aware of all the support available to them at university and in the local area and encourage all new students to throw themselves into social events and university societies so that they can start to build a life for themselves here. 

If students are having mental health difficulties we would encourage them to come to the Student Support and Wellbeing reception so that they can make an appointment with a mental health adviser, they can phone or email also – see more information on seeking support. We would also encourage them to speak to their tutors or Student Support Officers and College and Community Life Officers. 

What are the signs that someone is struggling and what’s the best thing to do as a first port of call? 

There are many signs that could indicate someone might be experiencing difficulties.  These may include the following: 

  • Feeling low or anxious 
  • Loss of enjoyment or interest in things that were once enjoyed 
  • Lack of energy 
  • A loss of confidence 
  • Not seeing the point in living
  • Poor concentration 
  • Poor sleeping 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Poor self care 

The amount of ways that a person can experience depression or other types of mental illness are very varied – so each problem needs to be looked at according to how the individual is experiencing it. We actively advertise and encourage students to self-refer. The first port of call is to contact Student Support and Wellbeing

A photo of two hands holding depicting support
Photo by Matheus Ferrero Unsplash

Are there issues in the modern day that have amplified the need for support, i.e. the cost-of-living crisis, the experience of the Covid-19 lockdowns, for example? 

Yes, since the pandemic we are finding that a lot of students are coming through to us for support that we’ve never seen before, particularly since the lockdown. Having spent months on end stuck at home, many people who have never experienced anxiety before are now finding it difficult to adapt and return back to “normal life”.

Recent events have affected us all and it’s okay to admit that and reach out for help. 

Who works within the mental health teams, how are they trained and what is their usual background? 

A whole team of professionals, from many backgrounds this includes: Mental Health Specialists, social workers, occupational health, Children’s Wellbeing Practitioner for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and many more.

All of us are able to deal with complex mental health difficulties. 

As a mental health adviser, what is the best thing about your job and how does it feel to help someone at a time of need? 

It’s really rewarding to successfully assist a person to feel able to cope with their everyday needs and to ensure they gain the right support from relevant services so they can progress and develop at university. As a team, we are very committed in what we do. 

The best part of the job is working with students to break down their difficulties and find practical solutions, to make things more manageable.

“A problem shared is a problem halved” is an age old saying, but it is so true. When you’re dealing with mental health alone, it can feel very isolating and overwhelming so when students have the courage to reach out for support, we do everything in our power to reduce that emotional load. 

Find out more about Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) online. 

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash 


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