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Uni Mental Health Day – App Launch

University Mental Health Day is this year on 4th March, and in the run up to it I’ve been pondering the following question:

What does it mean to be an organisation that values and supports mental health? 

Back in 2018, we launched an action plan on Mental Health to drive forward a range of improvements to the service we provide to our students. I’m very pleased at the progress OCA has made towards achieving those objectives; all staff are now mental health first aid trained, or in the process of training, we have forged links and partnerships with organisations around the country, notably SANE, we’ve worked with other institutions, and we have processes developed to try and identify students at-risk.  

Whilst I think we’ve done well, there’s more we would like to do, namely to integrate mental health as a key accessibility consideration in Curriculum Development, when designing learning materials, and to open up dialogue more with the Student Association around Wellbeing and to create real collaboration with students. 

How do we achieve that? As the Stepchange Mentally Healthy Universities framework suggests we need to understand that mental health affects everything we do, inside and outside of OCA life, and have a flexible and adaptive approach to supporting students. 

So these key areas that we are working on at the moment look like this:

  • Curriculum: to understand curriculum approaches to learning design, and embed mental health as an accessible consideration
  • Staff: ensure that all staff are mental health first aid trained, and have a clear structure to access specialist support in safeguarding
  • Assessment: maintain an effective assessment process that tests and challenges learning without undue stress
  • Community: develop an environment where people feel empowered to access support, and to work with the Student Association to improve access
  • Resilience: to develop skills within students that will enable them to study successfully and in other areas of their lives
  • Fitness to study: expand upon our at-risk processes to consider fitness to study and provide support around that

This is our rough roadmap to what we want OCA support to look like. There are clear areas for improvement and I would welcome your feedback on this; watch this space as we’ll hopefully setup a webinar Q&A in the not too distant future to actively engage with you on this. 

One area I am particularly keen to improve is in skills development, and to this end I am really pleased to announce that we are able to launch our new app for supporting mental health, OCAWellbeing. 

This newly created app is available to all OCA students and accessible through the Google Play and iTunes App Stores.

To register and use the app all you need is your oca.ac.uk email address. When you sign in, you will be asked to confirm your email address and click on the link in the subsequent email to get up and running. 

This new app is still in beta testing, so there is a lot of development to come, however it features podcasts to listen to with tips and activities to sustain your mental health, places to go to get support when you need it, challenges to help you develop new positive mental health habits, and more. It is built on the principle of five steps to mental health:

  • Connect with others
  • Be active
  • Learn new things
  • Giving
  • Mindfulness

We have big plans for this new platform, and really hope that it will be of use to you as you work through your studies. Please use it, let us know your thoughts on the usability of it, and what content you’d like to see, and I will set up sessions to gather your feedback.

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Posted by author: Craig Dewis
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