Activate Learning students in Berkshire and Oxfordshire discussed mental health issues at four special events to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week and the Love our Colleges week of action.
The debates, held from 15 to 17 May, brought together students, staff and representatives from the wider community, including Annelise Dodds, MP for Oxford East, Thames Valley Police, NHS, charities SOFEA and Mind, and counselling services No.5 and Youthline.
Under discussion was how to help students with mental health issues to fulfil their potential at a time when further education (FE) funding is being squeezed.
Students spoke eloquently and passionately about the pressures facing young people, including social media exposure, exam stress, family breakdowns and toxic masculinity. They raised concerns about how to get professional help, especially for young people experiencing mental health issues from the black and minority ethnic (BAME) or LGBTQ communities.
Advice from panellists included ‘thinking big’ and investigating if local business could provide corporate social responsibility support, lobbying MPs and developing peer support systems, in addition to simply sharing concerns with a friend for speaking to a GP.
Activate Learning’s student support services team can also help and they work hard to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all our students.
Activate Learning’s Group Executive Director for Innovation and Development, Bernard Grenville-Jones said: “There are twice as many disadvantaged students in further education (FE) colleges than there are at schools.
“FE colleges drive social mobility and aspirations and provide essential mental health support in addition to the education that young people need to progress and thrive.
“With events like these, we work together with our community partners to empower students to manage and overcome mental health issues so that they can get the most from their education, something that we are continuing to do in the face of reduced funding.”
Paul Newman, Activate Learning’s Group Executive Director for Faculties adds: ”Love our Colleges is a great opportunity for us to shout from the rooftops about the amazing work that colleges do and the lives that we transform. Each year, this becomes more and more challenging, due to the financial constraints of the sector, and yet we continue to rise to the challenge.”