“Mental Health support changes lives” say College Support Team

Mental Health support staff at Truro and Penwith College have been passionately discussing the support they provide and how it can positively impact on people’s lives, on National Stress Awareness Day, and every day.

“We are proud of the steps the College is making to put mental health support at the top of everyone’s agenda,” says Katie Matthews, Mental Health Advisor at Truro College.

The College provides one-to-one mental health advice, support, guidance, and signposting to external services. Everyone is encouraged to email mentalhealth@truro-penwith.ac.uk to arrange an appointment tailored to their individual needs.

“We are often the very first person someone will speak to about mental health in their life,” says Mental Health Advisor Mary Williams “so it is vitally important they have a positive, understanding interaction with us, as their entire view of mental health support and speaking to someone about it can be influenced by their first encounter.

“We are so pleased that mental health is being taken seriously within the College environment. It is so important that we connect with each other and view asking for help as a strength not a weakness.  This has been of particular importance during the pandemic and our return to the new norm.”

“None of us are immune to mental health issues,” adds Katie, “it’s just part of being human. Feeling anxious is natural when starting College, and as part of life. We support students to learn to manage that. We often talk to people about anxiety, low mood, self-esteem and assertiveness, and challenging unhelpful thoughts.”

Mary trained as an Occupational Therapist, then worked for the NHS for 17 years in hospitals around London. She says: “I’ve always been interested in mental health. There are few professions and areas in life where you know you can have a decisive impact on an individual’s life and their future, and this is one of them.

“Raising the profile of mental health is important. Peer support can be such an important part of it. Someone looking out for someone else. A sense of community and looking after each other helps all of us. We’re all going to be affected at some point. Life events, live stages, stress, College stress, work stress, being a carer, bereavement, at some point we will all be touched by these things.”

Katie has a teaching qualification and was a dementia care trainer working for Outlook South West, and delivered stressbuster courses. She was with the NHS for 10 years on an acute psychiatric ward and as a recovery support worker.

“I like to see people empowered and I’m passionate about self-esteem and assertiveness,” she says. “I believe in encouraging others to feel ok about themselves, and that filters out into the rest of their lives. It can be life-changing. Learning coping techniques and implementing them can improve self-esteem and confidence. It takes commitment and hard work to learn these skills and whilst there is no quick fix we are there to support students. We are running Anxiety Groups and Self Esteem and Assertiveness Groups over the coming weeks.”

Abi Cowls, ESF HERE4U Mental Health Advisor at Penwith College, says: "Young people are not alone with their mental health. This is particularly important this year as young people have had to deal with a lot and this has resulted in many struggling with how they're feeling. We want to ensure students know we are here for you."

Prominent issues in the field of mental health at the moment are the connection between physical health and mental health, the anxiety, low mood and low motivation caused post-Covid, sleep issues leading to other issues, developing self-esteem in students, and the issue of self-harm.

Meanwhile the College Learning Services teams have books and other resources that can help. “We promote books to help improve young people’s mental health, and encourage reading fiction for fun and stress-relief, not just for studying” said Fawnia Mountford, Learning Services Deputy Team Leader at Truro College, who is herself an author and playwright. “We have some amazing resources, and we are particularly showcase our mental health e-resources.”

The College also has an extensive ‘Health, Wellbeing and Sport’ programme which includes mindfulness meditation, ‘walk and talk’ and ‘knit and knatter’ sessions, while in the ‘time2talk’ sessions anyone can talk about anything at lunchtimes with the faith and reflection team.

Find more resources about young peoples’ mental health here

Find out more about the support available at the College here.