Aberystwyth University pilots new wellbeing programme for students

10 November 2017

 (L-R) Professor Jo Hamilton, Director of Student Experience at IBERS; Samantha Glennie, Hywel Dda University Health Board; Ian Keirle, lecturer and module coordinator at IBERS; Molly Longden, Wellbeing Officer at Aberystwyth University Students’ Union; Caryl Davies, Director of Student Support Services and Lou Hardinge, Assistant Director of Student Support Services at Aberystwyth University.
(L-R) Professor Jo Hamilton, Director of Student Experience at IBERS; Samantha Glennie, Hywel Dda University Health Board; Ian Keirle, lecturer and module coordinator at IBERS; Molly Longden, Wellbeing Officer at Aberystwyth University Students’ Union; Caryl Davies, Director of Student Support Services and Lou Hardinge, Assistant Director of Student Support Services at Aberystwyth University.

First year students at Aberystwyth University are being offered wellbeing workshops as part of a joint pioneering pilot with the NHS.

The University has teamed up with staff from the Hywel Dda University Health Board to deliver a course on dealing with low-level stress and anxiety as part of a module on academic and communication skills.

The ACTivate Your Life course was designed for the NHS by Welsh Consultant Clinical Psychologist Professor Neil Frude.

It aims to help individuals deal with a range of emotional issues including anxiety, stress, lack of motivation, depression and self-confidence.

The course is being rolled out to around 350 first year students studying in Aberystwyth’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS).

A total of four two-hour sessions will be delivered by trained staff from Hywel Dda University Health Board within a broader ten-credit module which teaches Study and Communication Skills. 

One of the organisers is Professor Jo Hamilton, Director of Student Experience at IBERS: “Wellness and wellbeing underpin how effectively a student can perform academically so at Aberystwyth University, we take a holistic approach to higher education - developing the whole student not just the academic student. This course can help normalise everyday stress and anxiety, providing students with a toolkit which will not only help them cope with the pressures of being at university but will also help them to develop resilience skills for the rest of their lives.”

The ACTivate Your Life course has been rolled out by the NHS across a range of organisations and institutions in Wales but this is the first time it has been incorporated as part of a university module.

Karon Loveday, Team Manager for Ceredigion’s Local Primary Mental Health Support Service which is part of the Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “For many young people leaving home and going to University is one of the most exciting times of their lives, but it can also provoke feelings of anxiety and stress – after all, being fully independent and paying your own rent and bills, while also juggling a busy academic and social life, can take its toll.
 
“This course is aimed at helping students to deal with feelings and emotions they may not necessarily have felt before or be prepared for, and it’s about helping them to self-manage and develop the skills they need in order to fulfil their potential.”

Lou Hardinge, Assistant Director of Student Support Services at Aberystwyth University, said: “This pilot represents innovative collaborative working between the University’s Student Support Services, IBERS and our professional colleagues in statutory services. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the students involved to take advantage of a proven psycho-educational intervention. We all experience bumps in the road and difficulty in our lives, and this programme will enable students develop their self-care skills proactively, better equipping them to deal with the challenges they face.”

Students will be asked to complete a confidential questionnaire before and after taking the course.

The results will be evaluated by the team and if conclusions are positive, the University will consider introducing the ACTivate Your Life course more widely to its students.

Aberystwyth University also offers a range of support through its Student Support Services, including workshops, drop-ins and counselling sessions.

Caryl Davies, Director of Student Support Services at Aberystwyth University, said: “There is a big leap between secondary school and leaving home to start an independent life at university. For many, it means living away from home for the first time, learning to do undirected study and research, managing finances, facing deadlines and exams. We want to ensure that our students develop resilience skills to help them cope with the challenges of university life but we also want them to be aware of the other services both statutory and on campus which they can turn to if they need additional help.”

Further information about the University’s Student Support Services can be found online: www.aber.ac.uk/en/student-support.

Ends.

Contacts

Professor Jo Hamilton, Director of Student Experience, IBERS, Aberystwyth University
01970 621526 / jvh@aber.ac.uk

Esther Prytherch, Communications and Public Affairs, Aberystwyth University
01970 622365 / 07968 593078 / ejp14@aber.ac.uk