Mental health and wellbeing are determined by a range of factors, which are complex and individual. Personal circumstances, such as physical health, financial security, programme of study, social interaction, and the level of support you have, all contribute to your ability to lead a happy life and be successful in your studies.
Why is mental health important to us at The Open University in Scotland?
Very often, discussions on mental health tend to focus on those experiencing mental ill health, who need care or support. As a university, we have a responsibility towards students and staff, to identify those at risk and to intervene early. But we also want to promote good mental health and wellbeing for our whole university population, improving the lives and outcomes of our students and ensuring you can access appropriate support at every stage of your journey.
It is now recognised that universities are health settings, where the environment can have positive or negative effects on students and staff. Our intention is to turn these health settings into healthy settings. What we plan to do to achieve this is outlined in our Student Mental Health Agreement (SMHA).
What is the Student Mental Health Agreement?
The Student Mental Health Agreement is a framework outlining how The Open University in Scotland and the OU Students Association are working together, to support and improve the mental health and wellbeing of students resident in Scotland.
This is a document specific to our students in Scotland. Every university in Scotland is required to produce one by the Scottish Council Funding, our funding body in Scotland.
Creating the Student Mental Health Agreement gave us the opportunity to ensure that all the commitments in relation to the mental health and wellbeing of our students in Scotland, found in our various policies, including our Student and Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, are in one easy and accessible document. This can help us deliver on these commitments and helps our students hold us to account.
Where can I find this document?
The Student Mental Health Agreement is available in two formats: a summary version, which covers the issues most relevant to students, and a full version, providing more context. They are both available on the Mental health and wellbeing support pages of the Open University in Scotland website.
The full version is also available on the OU’s Policies webpages.
The document is also linked to our OU page on the Think Positive Hub, a website full of mental health and wellbeing resources, hosted by the National Union of Students Scotland.
Tell me more about the Agreement
We have developed this Agreement in accordance with Universities UK’s Stepchange Framework, which sees universities as places that promote mental health and wellbeing as a strategic priority. The actions in the Agreement are grouped around the four Stepchange domains: Learn, Support, Work and Live.
“I find the education section particularly useful and think it would be nice to have more of that; perhaps some lectures if possible.” OU student on Virtual Wellbeing resources, Summer 2020"
We deliver on these through activities such as the Big Blether series, a forum to discuss student-related activities; Live Therapies, which provides free online counselling to OU students living in Scotland; bursaries and discretionary funding, such as a Carers’ Bursary and Care Experienced Bursaries; Scotland-specific resources, such as the Digital Resources we sent to our students during the pandemic and signposting to support outside the OU.
As part of our work on the Student Mental Health Agreement, we have also contributed to the creation of the Think Positive Hub, an initiative of the National Union of Students, which brings together all of the projects, services, resources and news relating to student mental health, in an easy to access online hub.
Look out for Big Blether events on the OU in Scotland website, where Scottish students can discuss mental health realted issues.
“It was a good session that gave me the opportunity to get to know other students and faculty. Also, it helps to know that other students are going through similar experiences and you can support each other.” Student at Big Blether event, Summer 2021"