Public services lecturer tackles mental health crisis with after school ‘life lessons’

Public Services lecturer Nigel Lewis

Over the last two months, much has been done to address the growing concern for mental wellbeing across the country.

As early as February, The Lancet published a paper outlining the daunting possibilities of long-term isolation, which  anticipated a rise in the reported cases of post-traumatic stress, confusion and anger. In March, the Department for Health and Social Care pledged £5million to bolstering the leading mental health support charities, officially recognising the strain on vulnerable people.

At City and Islington College, Public Services lecturer Nigel Lewis made an individual pledge to help support his students with a series of ‘life lessons’ videos and activities. The aim, he said, was to “find something to take their minds off the current situation.” We spoke to Mr Lewis about the outcomes of his project and the role of mental health support under the circumstances.

“During a tutorial I asked the students how many could cook, and it appeared that many couldn’t,” he said. “So I set about making a video on how to cook an omelette and a simple loaf of bread with no kneading. The response was fantastic.

“It became apparent that the lockdown was affecting some of the students’ mental health. A day has not passed since lockdown when students haven’t contacted me for support or a chat; [sharing extra lessons] has been a brilliant experience for them and for me, and a crucial link for students to talk about how they feel and to get the support they need, or to be signposted to specialist help organisations.

“Some of my students have lost family members to Covid-19 and being able to talk about their feelings on our support link, which I set up to be available from 8am to midnight, has been important to them. For some, we were the first port of call for support, because we are trusted as their mentors.”

Mr Lewis added that students had, for the first time, requested extra learning time during the Easter holidays. The class of 26 were happy to have something to do outside of term-time, with Mr Lewis publishing a quiz and a series of cooking tutorials through the week.

Public Services student Freddie Cook told the college: “During the lockdown, lessons have continued as usual on Microsoft Teams – which is very useful as we are able to finish the school year and get our assignments done. It’s slightly more difficult not having it taught in person, but we are still good to go and finish the school year on time.”

Mr Lewis noted that the switch to online learning has helped prompt a higher attendance and engagement rate in class. The Public Services lecturer has aimed to make the most of the situation, relating assignments on command and control in the public services to the ongoing circumstances.

At any time, but especially during this time, students are encouraged to speak to their tutors or our mental health team if they have any concerns or worries.

You can find more information on student support at https://www.candi.ac.uk/student-life/student-support-and-wellbeing/

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