Stephanie, 19, is studying Social Care at Glasgow Clyde College. SAMH and Glasgow Clyde College are working in partnership to create Scotland’s first Mentally Healthy College.
“I wanted to be a doctor until I was 14. You change your mind so much, but that’s what I wanted to be when I was younger – that was what I was going to do.
“Then I got put into care, and the mental health services were really, really appalling, and the support I got was next to nothing. So I’ve been there, and I just think that things need to change and I’m going to be a part of that.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Stephanie to get to where she is now, and the past few years have been difficult. She lost her best friend to suicide, and has survived several suicide attempts herself. Since leaving the care system, she’s moved around a lot, and at times has struggled just to stay in college.
The Mentally Healthy Colleges programme has been a huge source of support for Stephanie. Led by SAMH’s Mentally Healthy College Coordinator, Keir McKechnie, the programme aims to create a mentally healthy, open and vibrant community. This includes providing training for staff and building capacity for the college to look after the wellbeing of students.
“I think that when you’re a student, whether you’re coming from high school, or whatever your reasons are, it’s really, really nerve racking, and my anxiety was through the roof. I didn’t know anyone. Just not having to put up a front, and being able to offload rather than hide it – that’s actually important.
“It’s so good for students to be able to open up because the amount of students that drop out because they can’t cope is huge. If you know you have support from the start, I’d say the drop out rates will become less. It definitely takes a weight off your shoulders to be able to speak to someone.”
Stephanie gets a call from someone at student support services every Monday, and she really appreciates the support to start her week. That regular contact also means that issues can be picked up. When Stephanie had to take some time off college, the team were able to speak to her lecturers who were understanding about her assignments being late.
She also attends peer support groups, where she’s met other people with similar experiences, which has been a great help to her.
And Stephanie notices the difference that having staff trained in mental health is making.
“When I was feeling suicidal one of my lecturers picked up on it – she wasn’t afraid, she just asked me if that was how I was feeling, because she did that, I was more open with her than what I would have been. Like I don’t think I would have said anything to her first, but when she asked she was supportive and made sure I was all right – that was a big change, I don’t think that would have happened otherwise.
“I feel a lot more comfortable around my lecturers now, because they know all this, and I don’t have to sit down and explain all that, I just have to be like, I’m not having a good day.
“Down the stairs at student support services, they’re really good too. They’ve got better at talking to people, looking for the signs, just being there if you need somebody to talk to.”
Stephanie has just accepted a place at university, and alongside her studies she’s involved in campaigning for better mental health services.
“I just think that people are listening, and now is the time to make them listen even more.
“Mostly what I want to do in life is help people.”