Taking charge

Addressing the challenges faced by young people struggling with their mental health is high on the agenda at Victoria University of Wellington.

Student holding sign reading 'Future proof our rangatahi'

A campaign dubbed The Wait is Over has been created by Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) to put tertiary students at the heart of the nationwide conversation about spiralling demand for mental health services.

In August, VUWSA took its message to politicians, leading a rally at Parliament demanding that the Government properly fund tertiary mental health providers.

“We want the Government to recognise that tertiary student mental health services are already set up and servicing one of the most at-risk demographics, but they need better funding to be able to be effective in helping young people through difficult periods,” says VUWSA president Marlon Drake.

On campus, the University has a number of initiatives underway that are designed to give students tools to improve and maintain their own health and wellbeing.

One is the Student Wellbeing Awareness Team (SWAT), led by students who are employed by Mauri Ora (Student Counselling and Student Health). The team focuses on empowering students to address health and wellbeing issues to ensure that they succeed academically.

The SWAT leaders are passionate about the role they play, says one of the team, Alex Walker, a Master of Education student.

“Not only do we provide students with information about how they can help themselves, we’re also helping to build a resilient, positive community of students who are confident, feel good, and who go on to promote positive wellbeing in our community.”

The SWAT leaders work closely with Mauri Ora staff and are guided by the Okanagan Charter, an international charter developed for health-promoting universities in 2015.

Gerard Hoffman, manager of Student Counselling, says that as a health-promoting university, there is a strong commitment to providing a positive and supportive environment for everyone on campus.

“SWAT is just one example of a health-promotion initiative in which staff actively partner with students to improve and maintain their physical and nutritional health and their emotional wellbeing, which in turn supports them to succeed in the classroom and to be more engaged learners.”

Other initiatives around the University include the Bubble (a peer-supported, low-stress space for students to relax, connect, and take a break from study), a fruit and vegetable cooperative bringing healthy food into the University community, a Wellbeing Network made up of staff and students who discuss wellbeing on campus, and an annual Wellbeing Symposium.