Students at the University are being offered a helping hand to try out extra-curricular activities as part of a new project aimed at supporting well-being and building a more connected community.

SWITCH – the Student Wellbeing Initiative Targeting Community Health – is aimed at removing barriers to access for students interested in trying out a range of activities from sport to volunteering.

Craig Reoch, Student Experience Co-ordinator within Student Services, explained that the project also offers students opportunities to develop transferable skills and boost their CV while they study.

Craig is building on the work of Fiona Grant and Shirley Hill, of the University’s Support Hub, who developed the University’s mental health framework and a related project proposal to create a Caring, Compassionate and Connected University Community.

Craig is expanding on his own student experience, including a period as Vice President of Student Activities on the DUSA Executive, where he saw the transformative effect of engaging in extra-curricular activities for students’ mental health. It was in this role that he first came up with the idea for SWITCH.

“I got involved in as many things as I could while I was studying here and it helped me so much,” he said. “In fact I don’t think I would have got through my degree without it. I found third year quite difficult when my workload increased but I would have other things to look forward to, places I could go and meet up with other people and escape for a bit.

“It convinced me that it really is all about peer support and feeling connected and having a network around you. This project is about helping to build that network.

“It is aimed at students who are maybe finding it harder to engage in University life. There are so many activities on offer but it can be hard to take that first step. They may want to try a club or an activity but not know how to go about it or who to speak to first or maybe they are just quite shy.

“SWITCH is about making it easier. It is aimed at removing barriers and easing the transition into these groups.”

 

Students can be referred to the project in a number of ways including by academic staff, support staff, the University Health Service, Disability Services and the Counselling Service. They can also self-refer. They then meet up with Craig to explore options, look at what they are interested in and make contact with their chosen society, sports club or local group. Each group has a designated “welcomer” to offer support and make participation easier.

“We have also developed links with local groups and charities who are keen to recruit volunteers. So far we have links with Barnardos, Dundee Heritage Trust, Ninewells Community Garden, The Yard, Cats Protection and Feeling Strong – a mental health charity.”

Craig hopes that SWITCH will help students make the most of their time at University, boosting their employability skills at the same time as building a supportive network.

“We’re all here to get a degree but we need the extra stuff too. If we apply for a job the degree is the pre-requisite, so how can you make yourself stand out from everyone else with a degree. This is where extra-curricular activities come in. All the skills that are developed in these activities are transferable so it is added value for CVs.

“And there is plenty of evidence to indicate that being more connected to the community is beneficial to mental health. The idea is that it is a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.”

To find out more about SWITCH contact Craig at switch@dundee.ac.uk or visit the website at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services/connected-community/

Supporting students

The University offers a range of services to support students. These include:

Counselling Service
The Counselling Service offers short-term counselling to current students and staff. Counselling is about enabling people to explore their feelings and relationships more effectively. Appointments are available on the main campus and at Kirkcaldy and Ninewells. For more information visit the website at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services/counselling

Disability Services
Disability Services provides a range of confidential support services for disabled students, including students with physical and sensory impairments, mental health difficulties and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Services include: dyslexia screening and diagnosis; help with recruiting and managing support workers; mentoring support for students with mental health difficulties; and training with assistive technology.
For more information visit the web page at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/disabilityservices/

Enquiry Centre
This is a central point of contact, located on Campus Green, for any and all kind of questions. The centre offers support and advice covering a variety of areas from university accommodation, ID cards, general well-being, international support/visas, money issues, to opening a bank account, registering with a doctor, study support and careers advice. The centre also hosts a Citizens Advice Bureau. For more information visit the web page at: https://www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services/

Health Service
The Health Service, located in the Old Technical Institute (OTI Building) can help with many health care issues such as minor ailments/injuries, general health issues, specific health advice, sports medicals, GP information, sexual health advice/testing, mental health issues, alcohol or drug problems, depression and eating problems. For more information visit the webpage at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services/health/

Nightline
Nightline is a confidential listening and information service run by students, for students. It is staffed entirely by student volunteers and is fully accredited by the Nightline Association. The phone line (01382 381183) operates between 8pm and 8am and between 8pm and midnight for instant messaging. To find out more visit the web page at https://dundeeuni.nightline.ac.uk/

Peer Connections
Peer Connections is a welcoming, buddying and mentoring scheme to help all students settle in, meet, mix and share information and experience with other students. Meeting up with Peer Connectors can be arranged via the Peer Connections Co-ordinator, Joan Muszynski, Student Support Advisor, Student Services by calling in to the Enquiry Centre, Campus Green or by emailing peerconnections@dundee.ac.uk

More information is available on the webpage at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services/peer-connections/

Student Support Team
The Student Support team is there to help with issues or challenges impacting your studies or with yourself personally and can offer help and support to stay on course. A member of the team is always available in The Enquiry Centre and you do not need an appointment to come and talk, in confidence, about the issues you are facing.  However appointments can be made if preferred.

For more information visit the webpage on https://www.dundee.ac.uk/student-services/student-support-team/