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Sunderland College invests in mental health support for students

A specialist team at Sunderland College has stepped up to provide a range of mental health support services to its students, addressing the growing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on emotional wellbeing.

The college’s intensive support team, which includes support and safeguarding officers and counsellors, provides individual and group support to students who are experiencing mental health issues.

The team is offering additional support during the summer and start of term period, for new and returning students, to reduce the impact of the pandemic on their progression.

Ruth Magnus, director of student services at Sunderland College, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional stress to everyone’s daily lives, especially for students with pre-existing mental health conditions.

“As we adapt to new circumstances, it’s essential that our students feel supported and nurtured and that we do everything we can to protect their mental health and wellbeing.

“Our dedicated Intensive Support Team ensures that there is always someone for students to turn to and provide them with the support they need.”

During the suspension of face-to-face teaching due to COVID-19, the college’s Bede Campus remained open for vulnerable students and students of key workers.

Since lockdown, the intensive support team have undertaken more than 3000 welfare checks for vulnerable groups of students and 471 virtual counselling appointments, which included 50 new referrals during the pandemic.

This has been supported by daily live chat, Facebook Live sessions focusing on mental health and wellbeing, and virtual workshops on specific issues such as isolation, resilience and anxiety.

The intensive support team works across the whole Education Partnership North East college group, which also includes Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.

Vikkie Morton, vice principal of student services and registry across Education Partnership North East, said: “Our intensive support team is an invaluable resource.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, intensive support has continued with access to campuses for vulnerable students and face-to-face access to intensive support officers.

“All safeguarded and vulnerable students have had weekly calls from the intensive support team and calls are continuing over the summer to support transitioning students.”

93 per cent of students who accessed the counselling service across the college group felt it had impacted their ability to remain in college and 100 per cent agreed it helped them perform better with their academic work.