This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. We know how important Mental Health is, so that’s why we have invested in a new team to provide wellbeing support throughout the year at Kensington and Chelsea College, for both students and staff.

This team includes a CBT therapist, a MIND Wellbeing advisor and our two Mental Health and Wellbeing Officers (MHWO), dividing their time to support people at each of KCC’s centres.

To help spread awareness as part of Mental Health Awareness week and to introduce our two MHWOs, we had a Q&A with them on the topic of Mental Health and wellbeing.

Amanda is our MHWO for Kensington Centre and Valerie is our MHWO working at Chelsea Centre.

Q: Why is Mental Health Awareness Week so important?

Valerie: To take action to promote the message of good mental health for everyone.
It is important to challenge the stigma and discrimination because it doesn’t matter how old you are, your gender or even your job: mental health doesn’t discriminate, anyone can be affected.

Amanda: Mental Health Awareness Week provides knowledge about Mental Health difficulties, and where to find help and support. This awareness week creates openness and positive conversations about mental health issues; it helps in the battle against stigma and lets people know that they are not alone. It is a valuable opportunity to promote good mental health for everyone.

Q: What stresses do you think young people have?

V: I think young people are stressed due to pressures to succeed and they may feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. There can also be pressure from body image and appearance.

A: There are many factors which can contribute to stress in young people, such as: pressure to achieve well in their studies, problems in their home lives, relationships, managing transitions to further learning or starting work and concerns over appearance. Social media can also contribute to a number of worries. Negative stress can affect students of any age.

Q: What support is available at the college?

A: KCC has supportive staff throughout the college, and there are Mental Health and Wellbeing Officers at both Kensington and Chelsea sites (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) who can offer advice, interventions and referrals to other services. There is low-intensity Cognitive behavioural therapy support via the NHS ‘Community Living Well’, available on Wednesdays at Chelsea. The charity Mind (Hammersmith & Fulham) provides an Early Intervention Service (non-clinical) for students 16-25 years with 1-1 support, offering practical tips and coping strategies to support mental health and wellbeing (Wednesdays at Kensington). Additional Learning Support (ALS) provision and Learning Coaches are available at both centres to support students during their learning experience. There is a robust system for recording any supporting safeguarding concerns.

Q: Why is this support important?

V: All professionals within an institution have a responsibility of the protection of a child, a young person or an adult at risk. Working together as a team will enable KCC staff to easily manage and record all safeguarding and wellbeing concerns.

A: Mental health support is very important when a student is facing difficulties or distractions in relation to mental health and wellbeing issues. A caring and nurturing environment with good practical advice helps the learner to address and manage problems, and supports the student toward the goal of reaching their full potential.

Q: What ways can people support their friends and family with mental illness?

V: It helps if close family and friends are open-minded and are non-judgemental to those experiencing mental health issues. This will enable the individual issues to have trust and respect between them and their friends or family members, which is important. This will help them to rebuild and maintain a sense of self-esteem and confidence.

A: Try to understand how the individual feels, showing kindness and respect to those who are experiencing mental health difficulties. Encourage the person to seek help from support services (if this is not already in place) and support them through their journey toward improved wellbeing.

Q: What advice would you give someone who might need to reach out and talk to someone?

V: I would advise people to talk about mental health, for example through attending counselling sessions. Ask for help, which I think is a strong thing to do as the individual is taking control of the problem and their life.

A: Talking about problems relating to mental health is an important step towards feeling better. I would encourage anyone who feels that they would benefit from some support not to delay, take the step to ask for this support now. Contact staff at the College, and you will find a warm and welcoming environment to talk things through.