Following her successful open letter to the University of Edinburgh regarding mental health provision at university, Emma Penney tells The Student of the real change that is being affected.
Since the publication of my open letter on mental health, I have been thrilled by the response from students and the university. Andy Shanks, the Director of Student Wellbeing reached out to me, and I had a great meeting with him and Kai O’Doherty (this year’s Vice President Welfare at Edinburgh University Students’ Association). After this meeting, Andy sent through a summary of the points we discussed and the work he’s going to do on them. This is really amazing and shows the university is taking this seriously.
One of the main things I’m really hopeful for, and will be coming into place soon, is a flowchart outlining all of the university’s services. A key problem I recognised is how confusing it can be for students to work out who to speak to. We also had a very productive conversation on the general communication between the university mental health team and students – and we are really keen to develop some focus groups, to actively engage those who will be most impacted, and understand their valuable opinions on how the change can be best put in place.
Change will clearly not be an overnight process. However, I can attest to the fact that the university is trying. The most important message I want to get across is that this is a two-way street. The response to my letter was incredible, but we cannot just now sit on our laurels and expect the university to change everything after one meeting. At the risk of sounding like a cliché – this cannot be a moment, it must be a movement.
If you care about mental health and mental health provisions get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Kai (email@example.com). We need people to take part in focus groups and give feedback on service, and just generally get more opinions on student experiences. Andy Shanks is working on many areas – from improving support on years abroad, to reviewing the systems of the Student Counselling service, Special Circumstances and Personal Tutors. These things affect all of us regardless of our mental health, and so we must engage with them.
Use your voice – the university will listen, and if they don’t – make more noise. This is a fight that has to keep going. We have to hold the university accountable and ensure they follow through on their promises. Change is going to come, but not on its own.
If you want to read Emma’s original article you can do so here