Mentally Healthy College Project Helps Students Succeed

20th June 2019

A pioneering project aimed at creating mentally healthy college communities has seen an increase in the number of students with mental health problems going on to complete their studies.

During the two-year project, 63% of Glasgow Clyde College students who had experienced a mental health condition went on to complete their course: an increase of 8% on the previous year.  

Funded by Glasgow Clyde Education Foundation, the pilot is a collaboration between SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and Glasgow Clyde College. Research indicates that students may be more likely than other groups to experience mental health problems and that serious mental health problems among students are increasing.

The Mentally Healthy Community College Project aimed to create a mentally healthy, open and vibrant college community and was the first of its kind in Scotland. SAMH worked alongside existing Glasgow Clyde College counselling services, advisory teams and the student association to ensure college staff have increased capacity to support students.

As part of the project, SAMH trained more than 300 members of staff in mental health awareness, Mental Health First Aid, and suicide prevention first aid. The training has enabled staff to support the College’s 17,000 students with their mental health.

Stephanie, 19, studies Social Care at Glasgow Clyde College. Stephanie noticed 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.”

Billy Watson, SAMH Chief Executive, said:

“It’s been fantastic to be part of developing a mentally healthy culture at Glasgow Clyde College over the past two years. Going to college brings a number of changes to students’ lives and studying can be demanding. So it's essential that all students feel that they can have open and honest discussions about their mental health and that staff have the confidence to be supportive. 

“It’s really heartening to see an increase in students with a mental health problem completing their course. This demonstrates that with the right support, mental ill-health should not be a barrier to young people pursuing what they want to do in life.

“We hope to build on this partnership in the college sector in the coming months.”

Karolina Gasiorowska, Glasgow Clyde College Student President said:

“It has been brilliant for GCCSA to be involved in the Mentally Healthy College Project. The link with the Mentally Healthy College Coordinator and SAMH allowed us to be able to ensure we had the correct resources to provide for students and gave us a fantastic opportunity to train up our team, as well as offering training to students in this area which was a great success. We hope to be able to build upon this going forward.”

Jon Vincent, Glasgow Clyde College Principal said:

“We are delighted to have worked so closely with SAMH to put into place the solid foundations of a culture throughout the college which challenges the stigma of mental health problems and supports those who are in need of it.

“The financial support of the Glasgow College Education Foundation has been critical to making this pioneering intuitive possible. Like all organisations we will always have members of staff and students who experience challenging times but we hope that our new approaches will provide a positive and nurturing environment where everyone will flourish.”

Pauline Radcliffe, Director of the Clyde College Education Foundation said:

“We are thrilled to have supported and funded this project which has increased awareness of the importance of positive mental health around the college.

“We are all about funding sustainable innovation so it’s great to see the work over the last two years have an impact on students at the college and the lasting changes being put in place that will benefit those students yet to come to the college.”