Lincoln University is working to promote greater wellbeing across campus, with a comprehensive plan to strengthen successful existing programmes and develop new initiatives.
The university has enlisted Dr Jackie Blunt, a practising GP and wellbeing coach, to develop a strategic approach to facilitating wellbeing at Lincoln.
She leads a team who work on enhancing wellbeing, supporting mental health, strengthening mental fitness and creating improved overall wellbeing on campus.
“Mental fitness is like physical fitness for the mind and emotions,” says Dr Blunt. “You can always strengthen it, no matter where you are or how you are feeling.
“What we’re doing here at Lincoln is growing wellbeing as a part of our culture, so it becomes a normal part of life.
“University is a time when there are a lot of new pressures on students and wellbeing is now widely recognised as an essential part of achievement.”
With Mental Health Awareness Week taking place from 8-14 October, Dr Blunt says it is crucial to raise the profile of wellbeing and educate people on the simple things they can do to grow their mental fitness on an everyday basis.
“When we pay attention to how we are feeling, we can make adjustments as we go along, so the normal ups and downs of life aren’t so chaotic and hard on our bodies and minds.
“If things are going well, they can get even better, if things are so-so, they can improve, and if life feels bad, people can get the support they need when they feel overwhelmed and before things get critical.”
Dr Blunt has been working alongside students and staff to create more opportunities for wellbeing on campus. One such project is a cross-campus collaboration known as the WELLU Initiative.
This involves training student volunteers to be wellbeing leaders and mentors, and supporting them in a variety of activities and projects.
Second-year Rural Valuation and Agricultural Management student and Wellbeing Mentor Abby O’Brien says one part of the WELLU initiative is “about providing a pathway between students and support services such as counsellors”.
“At the moment, there are seven mentors involved in WELLU. It’s important to make support pathways more visible on campus and to talk openly about problems.”
Third-year Commerce student and Wellbeing Mentor Katherine Kennedy adds that part of the training the students have received involves learning how to respond to people who asked for support.
“The mentors are all in different year groups and studying for different degrees, so students who need help should be able to find someone to talk to who they have got to know through their year group and subject area.”
WELLU leaders also receive training in personal wellbeing and communication skills, along with diversity and inclusiveness.
Dr Blunt says there are a variety of other wellbeing projects under way at Lincoln University. These include physical and mental wellness programmes at the Recreation Centre, chaplaincy initiatives, further student-student mentoring programmes to foster the social connectedness of international and domestic students, Māori and Pasifika wellbeing projects and social programmes for postgraduates.
“The senior management group has made the decision this year for Lincoln to become a health promoting university, using a well-recognised international framework to guide us in this process,” says Dr Blunt.
“Both staff and student wellbeing are recognised as essential for a healthy educational community, so workshops for both are now up and running covering a variety of wellbeing topics, thanks to the support of many people in different parts of the campus.”
A workshop called How to Lead Wellbeing at Work will be held with staff this month to raise awareness of the connection between work and health and encourage a proactive leadership role. Participants will explore ways of promoting wellbeing and resilience in themselves and others.