The eMental Health Project Officer

 

Hello readers!

Gareth here.

Recently, the Health, Counselling and Disability Services webpage got a facelift – www.flinders.edu.au/hcd – looks a bit swanky huh?!

In the process though we lost a few of the pages we had on our terrible but strangely charming old website.

One of those pages described the role of the eMental Health Project Officer – my role.

Not content to sit back and lose my 15 minutes of fame, I thought I’d recreate the fundamental aspects of that page in this blog post. As you will see, it is not a totally selfish act, only about 95% selfish.

What is an eMental Health Project Officer?

My role emerged because of twin forces. First, students were asking for more mental health and wellbeing related conversations and content, given their observations that mental health is one of the fundamental challenges for students. Second, the Health, Counselling and Disability Service wanted to supplement their face-to-face services with content that could reach a larger number of students.

The eMental Health Project Officer role involves using digital channels to reach a larger number of students with information and practical tools they can use to increase their mental wellbeing. The ‘e’ refers to digital channels. The ‘Mental Health’ refers to a focus on mental wellbeing and ‘project officer’ captures the wide range of activities that I am involved in.

My role is SSAF funded, meaning it comes out the money collected from students to supplement the services offered here at Flinders. This has real implications for the work I do – see “you can get involved” below.

What are my qualifications?

It would be fair of you to ask whether I have the qualifications necessary to talk about mental wellbeing.

I completed my PhD in Clinical Psychology here at Flinders in 2007. My PhD was on how people recover psychologically after a heart attack and whether I could accelerate this recovery by providing information and tools for self-reflection.

I’ve spent the bulk of my career working in the area of child, adolescent and youth mental health covering a fairly diverse range of topics: parent-child therapy, workforce design, outcome measurement, program evaluation. I kinda worked like a ‘researcher for hire’. I worked primarily to help others get their projects up and running.

Later in my life though (I am in my 40’s now) I started getting really interested in what are the ingredients of a ‘good life’. This grew out of my own personal experiences of ill health but also discovering that some of the things that helped me the most, were things that I didn’t initially consider were mental health interventions. For example, I have got a lot of mental health benefit from learning more about managing money.

So when I started working here at Flinders, I asked myself the question, ‘what the are the key skills that a student should try to develop that are going to help them make the most of their university experience, but also be skills for life in general?’

What do I do here at Flinders?

I spend my time trying to answer that question above:

What the are the key skills that a student should try to develop that are going to help them make the most of their university experience, but also be skills for life in general?

What I learn along the way, I write about or talk about in a few places:

  1. Here on the Student Health and Wellbeing Blog
  2. On the OASIS website, particularly the blog
  3. On the Wellbeing for Academic Success FLO site
  4. On handouts and booklets that are available at Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS), but also online
  5. On my Twitter account
  6. At presentations I give around the university

The topics I have covered are varied but can probably be summarised as:

By putting the bulk of what I create online, my intention is that students can access it from anywhere at anytime.

If something I have written or talked about in a presentation helps you out in some way, big or small, then I have done my job.

I also work in the background here at HCDS to provide additional supports to the team. For example,

  • I provide resources to the counsellors that they can in-turn use to help the students they see
  • I provide an editorial role for team members that wish to write for the blog (e.g. Nurse Tim)
  • I help try to define and modify some of our processes of care

My role is one where you can get involved

Because I am paid with SSAF funding, the expectation is that I will be doing things that directly and positively impact on students. You’re paying for me, so you should get value for money out of it.

But it has been a long time since I was a student. Yes, there are things that haven’t changed (e.g. study skills) but there are things that have (e.g. numbers of students working and studying at the same time).

So my work benefits greatly from the involvement of students. To be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to do my work for me, but any guidance you provide helps me do my job better.

Some of the ways that I have involved students in my time here include:

  • Working directly with students to create resources
  • Providing training to students on topics like self-care and mental fitness and using their feedback to improve that training
  • Inviting students to contact me directly via email with their ideas: gareth.furber@flinders.edu.au
  • Providing consultation to students or student groups who are developing their own mental health themed projects – e.g. Keep Your Cup Full
  • Doing podcasts with students – e.g. talking with Stephen on mentoring
  • Inviting students to write posts for the blog – e.g. Eloise writing on ‘Ikigai’

If you are passionate about mental health and wellbeing, and want to realise some of your own projects and ideas, or simply help me with some of mine, please feel free to get in contact.

The more contact I have with students, the better I get at identifying the issues most pertinent to them.

 

Final words

I am very fortunate to have this role and there isn’t a day goes by where I am not grateful for that. My goal is to constantly improve the quality of the mental health related content that comes out of this role, so please feel free to connect with me. This goes for students who want to play a bigger role in improving the mental health of their peers, but also staff who might want to discuss with me the option of me coming to speak or work with their students.

I hope to see you around.

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