For many students, their academic advisor is their first port of call when they have a personal issue that affects their studies. In these situations, it’s the role of the academic advisor to offer initial support to students, and signpost them to further sources of help. As the guidelines provided by the University’s Learning and Teaching Service state:
Students may also choose to speak to their Advisers about personal issues affecting their studies or their welfare. The Adviser will be open and receptive to offering initial support, but will also be knowledgeable about the professional services provided by the Student Support Service Office and the Student Union Advice Centre and will refer students to these services whenever appropriate.
However, when a member of staff becomes an academic advisor, they aren’t actually provided with the skills in order to do this. At some point in the first three years of becoming an advisor, staff are given some form of mental health training, but in many cases this simply isn’t good enough.
To throw staff into a position of responsibility before they have received adequate training isn’t just unfair to them – it’s damaging to students. Too often, we hear of advisors who have – unintentionally – used inappropriate language, misinformed students, or failed to signpost students to vital services which could help them.
This is why I’m fighting for staff to be given adequate mental health training before they become academic advisors.
Staff are already made to complete mandatory training for ‘Prevent’, the Government’s anti-terrorist program, before they’re allowed to be academic advisors. The SU have openly opposed ‘Prevent’ as part of the Shut Down Hate Crime priority campaign – so to us, the fact that ‘Prevent’ training appears to be prioritised over mental health training is outrageous.
I’m also asking the University to consider giving mental health training to cleaners. The cleaners at UEA aren’t just there to mop up your kitchen once a week – they’re asked to report any concerns they have about a student. Again, it’s completely unreasonable to place them into this position of responsibility without providing them with training and support.
This all falls under our Mental Health Matters priority campaign. To get involved, visit uea.su or email me on email@example.com