I recently completed the Student Wellbeing Services’ 4-week Mood Boost programme, and met up with the course leader, Marina McEwan to discuss the service.
Felicity: How long have you worked in Student Wellbeing Services?
Marina: Two years. The first Wellbeing Officer post came into being when I joined, as a reflection of the changing needs of students. The University used to just have a counselling service, but about three years ago, it split into counselling, mental health, and wellbeing.
FA: Who’s in the team?
MM: We’re very multidisciplinary! We have six counsellors, three mental health advisors and three wellbeing officers, with more due to join soon. We’re all from different backgrounds, like social work or occupational therapy, so we offer something for everyone.
FA: What do you enjoy most about your work?
MM: What’s special about working with students is that, no matter how difficult they’re finding things, they always seem able to find some hope or ambition to hold onto, and that’s a really contagious feeling. I find it so rewarding to watch someone’s progress: perhaps they started Mood Boost feeling really low, and complete it feeling more confident and smiley. Group work is also a personal passion of mine!
FA: What do you think are the biggest issues facing students?
MM: It’s very individual of course, but university represents some unique challenges. It’s a time of transition and adjustment. Perhaps you’ve left behind your old support networks, you’re under academic pressure, you’re worrying about money, you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate. It can be a lot to handle.
FA: How do Student Wellbeing Services help?
MM: We respond quite quickly to students’ needs and adapt our courses frequently. We love getting feedback about our services: Do they work? Could they be better? We’re a transformative service.
FA: How did Mood Boost evolve?
MM: Mood Boost uses principles from cognitive behavioural therapy and solution-focused therapy to empower students to cope even after the course has finished. It’s a recognised course that was introduced to the University of Plymouth with a manual and a presentation. We’ve adapted it, but still stick to those core sentiments. We’re constantly running it, so you can almost always start the four sessions of Mood Boost.
FA: Is there anything you’re keen to share about Student Wellbeing Services?
MM: We love our new SPACE café. It’s a quiet place where people can go to relax, read, chat or play games, plus it has free hot drinks. We’re also excited to be working on a new project aimed at young men, which we’re currently co-creating with students. We have also collaborated with UPSU Sports for BARS (Be Active Reduce Stress), where students buddy up to increase their physical activity. And I mustn’t forget SHINE, a library of self-help resources at your fingertips.
You can find everything that Student Wellbeing Services offer here: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/student-life/services/learning-gateway/counselling