What is a Student Mental Health Agreement (SMHA)? Should your college or university get one?
This is an initiative led by Think Positive on behalf of NUS Scotland to bring student associations and their institutions together in a formal agreement to work jointly on mental health issues on campus.
This means that mental health will be a key action point for institutions and associations with strong input from both sides.
Student Mental Health Agreements are a framework for universities and colleges to build strong support for students and staff around mental health. The SMHAs encourages staff to review existing policy and staff training and consider improvements which could have a positive effect on the staff and student experience.
The aim of the SMHAs is to ensure that anyone experiencing mental ill-health can feel that they can continue in their studies without facing stigma or discrimination.
There are no costs involved in taking part in the SMHAs but with advice from Think Positive throughout the process, formal and accredited training and development opportunities institutions will see a number of benefits.
We have already worked with a number of institutions who have found implementing the SMHA a valuable process and one which has led to further projects and successful initiatives.
The SMHA plans and actions will be unique to each institution however five key areas of work will include:
- Review of mental health work to date- what has worked and what hasn’t.
- Looking at joint priorities and goals
- Agreeing actions
- Tracking progress
This means that the students associations and institutions will be actively working together to assess the areas to prioritise the needs of students and staff .
Some working areas which have been useful to work on have included the promotion of student support services, tackling stigma, peer support and a focus on wellbeing. We have also identified the need to better support international students, LGBT students, postgraduate students and mature students who may be most at risk of suffering from mental ill health or face additional barriers preventing them coming forward for support.
Success has also been found in using student-led information packs, building links with external mental health agencies and early intervention mechanisms.
Taking part in the agreement process will also support wide cross-institution working and networking opportunities for students associations and university or college staff.
We also offer approved training for staff and students taking part in the agreement scheme. The training courses have been designed by NHS Scotland and are supported by the Scottish Government. Participants will receive certificates upon completion of the courses
- Suicide Talk– a one to three hour training and awareness raising workshop from the Choose Life initiative which aims to prevent suicide in Scotland. This practice oriented session aims to reduce stigma around suicide and promote awareness- dispelling common myths.
- Scottish Mental Health First Aid– a 12 hour course designed to equip people with the skills to listen non-judgmentally to someone who is experiencing mental illness and how to respond appropriately in a crisis.
Email us to find out more about these: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to find out more about taking part? This presentation Queen Margaret University Students’ Union Student Mental Health Agreement from Cecile Guilloteau, Queen Margaret University Students’ Union might help.
Do you think that your institution would benefit from a SMHA? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com.