"Moving our service online means we are able to reach all of our students, wherever they are."
Published: 27 August 2020
The Students’ Union welfare support service offers flexible and unlimited support to students on a range of academic procedures and welfare issues. The service has played an important role in providing remote support to students throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
We spoke to Welfare Officer, Lon Teija, about how the team has adapted in light of the current restrictions so that students continue to receive the support they need. Lon’s role was created in early 2019 and is partially funded by the generous donations of the St George’s alumni community.
Lon says, “At the beginning of lockdown, we were entering new territory. Lots of our students had lost their routine and structure, and there was a lot of confusion, anxiety and uncertainty around the changes to exam delivery and assessment procedures.
“Part of my role as Welfare Officer has been to help students come to terms with these changes and to help students process them – to make sense of new ways of living and studying. We worked to help keep students motivated and give them reassurance during this period of uncertainty.
“Many of our students have been feeling a bit lost and having contact with us has helped them feel heard and reminded them that we are all in this together.”
Since March, the Students’ Union Welfare team has supported a wide spectrum of students with varying needs. Lon explains, “We have spoken to some students who are seeking guidance on establishing structure and routine while studying remotely. Others, such as international students, have found themselves unable to travel home at a time when many students are moving out of student accommodation.
“We have also been speaking to students who are most vulnerable at this time, who have found themselves in a disruptive or unstable environment as a result of the lockdown. These are students who have felt particularly anxious about going home and the welfare service has provided them with someone to speak to, to help them stay centred, during this challenging time."
Speaking of the move to an online service, Lon says, “It took a bit of time to adjust to the new way of working, and to get used to speaking to students online, which feels very different to interacting face-to-face – but moving our service online means we are able to reach all of our students, whatever their current situation and wherever they are.”
As well as the Students’ Union welfare support service, students can also access Togetherall (formerly known as Big White Wall) for free, confidential 24-hour online support. The platform allows students to self-manage their mental health and wellbeing through a range of online courses and clinically managed, trained professionals, called Wall Guides, are on hand 24 hours a day to help those in need of extra support. To register, students can visit togetherall and sign up under ‘organisation’ with their University email address.
Watch the video to find out more.