Team profile: UWS Mental Health & Wellbeing Team

UWS Mental Health and Wellbeing team

Who works in the MHWb team?
Jenny Baines, Head of Counselling Service
Gill Murphy, Mental Health Coordinator
Emma Taylor, Mental Health Advisor
Kylie Hartin, Admin Support

What does the MHWb do?
The MHWb team offers a direct mental health service to students and a consultation service for UWS staff to help them support students’ progression at UWS. The team meets with students who may be experiencing mental health concerns and chats with staff about determining appropriate support services for students. The team is also very active in producing mental health promotional resources and organising events. Mental Health Month events or promotion happens every year with leadership from the MHWb team. The Mental Health and Wellbeing website helps to inform the UWS community about preventative mental health and identifies appropriate support in relation to mental health and wellbeing.

Where is the MHWb team located?
Jenny, Gill and Kylie are based in Student Support Services, on the Penrith campus.
Emma is based at Campbelltown Student Support Services.

The team works across the UWS campuses to support students and to provide consultation, training and information to staff. Kylie supports the team with any admin needs.

Who does the MHWb team work with?
The MHWb team works across all areas of the University. For example, a staff member may call from any Office or School to discuss how best to chat with a student about their concerns or studies. We have an instrumental role in the University’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy. We offer our knowledge and skills to inform UWS policy and practice, and position mental health and wellbeing in the UWS community. The team has recently been working strategically with community mental health teams in Western Sydney to facilitate greater understanding of UWS, the experience of being a student and UWS Student Support Services. We are also seeking other ways to develop stronger links with external community mental health teams to increase their awareness of the support provided at UWS and develop community partnerships to inform and improve our service provision.

What would be a good example of the work that you are involved in?
The team deals with emergency mental health situations on campus. We work closely with the Counselling Service and other Student Support Services in their day-to-day support of students, particularly where there is a risk situation.

The MHWb team manages the day-to-day operations of a formal partnership with Population Health, Nepean Blue Mountains and Western Sydney Local Health Districts. This involves engaging with internal and external staff who have particular interest or expertise in areas of wellbeing such as tobacco, healthy lifestyles and alcohol, other drugs and sexual health. We have established three working groups with these areas of interest in mind. People involved in the partnership with the Local Health Districts contribute to UWS policy development or review, facilitate training for particular UWS services and teams and undertake relevant health promotion project work.

The Transcultural Working Group is another recent development of the MHWb Strategy. This involves members of the team working to develop partnerships with community and across UWS to raise awareness and cultural competency in terms of recognising and understanding a diverse range of student needs. Research and development specific to cultural diversity and responding to students’ needs will continue to be a significant focus for this group.

What challenges does the team face?
Providing a mental health clinical service can be tricky when team members are based on different campuses. Also, working across such a diverse range of services and teams, both internal and external to UWS, can be challenging at times. We are very lucky that everyone is very supportive of each other and we all have a similar philosophy of mental health and wellbeing. We are all passionate about providing the best learning experiences while helping other staff feel comfortable in their role to support students. 

What is the team focusing on in the next 12 months?
We are continuing our work with the local mental health teams; Population Health, Nepean Blue Mountains & Western Sydney Local Health Districts; and ongoing developments with the Transcultural Working Group. We are looking forward to fostering good networks and links within the University and the Greater Western Sydney community. Where possible, joint research interests and further project work will be the result of the developing networks and partnerships to develop and enhance the effectiveness of the MHWB Strategy. We are also looking forward to the early developmental stage of a University policy for mental health.