Gareth here. I am the eMental Health Project Officer. I work with Health, Counselling and Disability Services and Oasis.
Given that I am on the only one of me at the University, I thought I’d take a moment to describe what it is I do here at Flinders.
Yes, that is somewhat narcissistic of me, but my role involves a lot of student-centred activity, meaning knowing what I do might help you.
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 (and ours) that mental health is one of the fundamental challenges for students. It certainly has been during this Coronavirus period.
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 (blogs, email, FLO, collaborate, Zoom, chat etc) to reach a larger number of students with information and practical tools they can use to increase their mental health and wellbeing. The ‘e’ captures the focus on 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 health and 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 wellbeing and productivity. When I say ‘wellbeing’ I mean being happy, healthy and socially connected. When I say ‘productivity’ I mean getting good quality work done and enjoying it. The interest in these two grew out of my own personal experiences of ill health and a career plateau and the things that helped me in my attempts to get healthy and progress professionally. I quickly noticed that other people (e.g. students, academics) are seeking the same things.
Fortunately my field (psychology) has a lot to say about both of these, so when I started working here at Flinders, I started developing resources and programs focused around these two topics. I continue to build and develop these resources.
What exactly do I do here at Flinders?
I am in my 4th year here at Flinders and myself and my colleagues have managed to get a fair bit done in that time. Here is an ultra-quick overview of what I do:
- I write the Student Health and Wellbeing Blog where you are reading this article.
- I write and maintain the Self-help resources in our Self-help Library.
- I maintain the Oasis website.
- I co-manage the Oasis Online FLO topic where we deliver a range of online wellbeing programs.
- I co-create and deliver programs like Studyology, Mental Fitness and Wellbeing and Productivity Hacks which give students tools for increasing wellbeing and productivity.
- I write and teach on the topic of mental fitness and habit formation.
- I collaborate with other groups at the University on projects like ‘Like a Boss‘ and the upcoming SLSS resources overhaul.
- I co-develop and co-facilitate the Be Well Plan program which has been delivered to students via a partnership with the team at the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at SAHMRI.
- I do random teaching around the university when asked by topic and course coordinators.
- I do a little bit of academic work, co-writing papers on topics related to mental fitness, student wellbeing, and wellbeing program development.
- I drink most of the Red Bull that is in the Hub vending machines.
The good thing is that the bulk of what I do ends up online in some form. 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 or websites I manage. For example, check out Matt’s excellent series on the Oasis website on ‘A reconciliation preparation guide for non-Aboriginal Australians’.
- I help try to define and modify some of our processes of care (i.e. how we do business here at Health, Counselling and Disability Services).
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 (e.g. Clara’s guide on bouncing back after a period of mental ill health)
- 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 and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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’ or Serena writing on nutrition.
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.
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 and wellbeing-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.