Big Ships Turn Slowly? : Student Mental Health Support on the Table at University of Glasgow College of Arts S.S.L.C. Meeting, Questions Raised

Today, Postgraduate Representatives on the Student Staff Liaison Committee convened in our first College of Arts meeting of the year, chaired by Barbara Burns with Adeline Callander, assisting. The meeting’s scheduled theme of ‘wellness’ brought some interesting issues to light.

Chairwoman Burns made it clear that the preferential topics of discussion for promoting wellness concerned more community based efforts to prevent slips in ‘wellness’ before they happen. An admirable goal, but not the nature of mental illness or of healthcare in general. While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a picnic will not prevent a heart attack no matter how good the cheese is.

A greater, more streamlined approach to promoting and establishing health-based resources by which incoming students could better navigate healthcare systems would facilitate the transition to life at Glasgow – a lack of this does not promote wellness.

As was acknowledged by Ms. Burns in so many words when I presented this issue to the floor, ‘Big Ships Turn Slowly’, and an issue of this magnitude will take some time to work through. Our responsibility as students in this department is to the future students who will take our place next year, so that their experiences can be improved, and so forth.

We are very fortunate for our close-knit faction of researchers and for the vigilance of Prof. Alice Jenkins for her close personal attention to our research, academics, our hopes and dreams, and critically, our wellbeing.

In light of our exceptional good fortune in the camaraderie department, I used the meeting as a platform to further express the fact that many students I have spoken with outside of our own group have had trouble adjusting to the health services offered through the National Health Service, feeling they were provided very little introduction into ‘life’ in the United Kingdom beyond their student status and what they could expect.

As an example of this, there are several mental health and learning disability medications which lack equivalence here across country lines – leaving students without any recourse when the doctor flounders to find a parallel drug with little information. I suggested the instatement of medical reciprocity personnel – even someone who is familiar with the medical aspects of each nation – to harbour a community at the University which is supportive of its postgraduate students’ needs.

As a College, we have not had the clearest distribution of information despite best efforts from the department – this is an established problem which, I hope, is rectified for incoming students. The deficit in clear information distribution translates to abject lack of distribution of mental health information – ergo, making it more inaccessible and perhaps even foreboding.

The need for a better introduction to life here was corroborated by several members of the committee regarding this issue and others – adjustment to academic English language requirements differing strongly from test-indicated ability, more clearly indicated quiet resting areas, and several similar points.

Other topics of discussion included the distribution, functionality, and age of computers ‘given’ up for postgraduate researchers to use (we get the computers after four years of staff use, but then the computer sit for an additional three until they no longer are in functional condition), elucidation of induction and Moodle information, and more. But the largest, unified concern has been detailed above.

Charlotte Orr is leading the charge on the development of a Student Mental Health Support Team, which aims to provide support and listening ears to those in need both to harbour community and train our postgraduates to accommodate and support one another appropriately.

Going forward, I urge everyone to keep checking in with each other. Consider involvement in Charlotte’s initiative. Send GIFs of puppies, kittens, turtles, or whatever else you’re into. Keep the inside jokes coming.

And if you have any questions, or would like to hear the funny story of how I was late to the meeting by a couple of minutes and embarrassed myself by knocking over my briefcase, following it up with forgetting to introduce myself by name, please feel free to chat me up via WordPress, Facebook, or email.

Here’s to an excellent Spring Term 2017!

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Caroline C. Evans Abbott

I am a rising Master of Research (M.Res) English Literature candidate at the University of Glasgow, incoming MFA Writing candidate at Sarah Lawrence College, and a recent Honors Program graduate of the B.A. Studio Art program at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut (2015). From 2015 - 2016, I served as an English, Writing, and Creative Enrichment Tutor for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a Native American Reservation in Brooks, California, and from 2014 - 2015 as a Writing Associate (Tutor) in the Albertus Magnus College Writing Center. I am a writer and photographer based in London.

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