Mental Health Awareness Week - What Mental Wellbeing Looks Like at MDS

While there’s no denying that 2020 has tested our resilience, it’s also shined a much-needed light on the importance of mental health in the classroom and the workplace, and the value of a robust support system.  

As part of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, we sat down with Media Design School’s Student Counsellor, Flora Sta.Ana, to learn more about how MDS prioritises mental wellbeing for both staff and students. 

Why is mental health important in an education environment? 

As a counsellor with 12 years' experience supporting students, I’ve seen first-hand how important mental health awareness is for all educators. It isn’t something we’ve always got right, but it's good to see educators starting to recognise the impact that a student's mental health has on their learning and academic success. We’re getting better at understanding the need for collaboration between counsellors and academic staff.  It’s a welcome shift, especially as we’re facing an increasingly complex student population with differentiated needs.

It's good to see educators starting to recognise the impact that a student's mental health has on their learning and academic success.

How do you approach mental wellbeing with the students you work with?

I start by connecting with new students at orientation and during their first week on campus by inviting them to individual Life Coaching sessions. Every new student is encouraged to attend.  The session is informal, collaborative, and designed to help students navigate the transition process.  We set them up with a range of networks and resources to ensure to the best possible adjustment to life in Auckland and at Media Design School.

We also provide short-term counselling support for any students who might be experiencing issues that impact their studies, like anxiety, depression, family issues and stress. It’s good for students to know there’s a familiar face on campus as their first port of call when they need to talk. We also have a great network of specialists, where we can refer our students for free longer-term counselling if they need more specialised support.  

What are you most proud of about how MDS approaches mental wellbeing for staff and students? 

We work hard to provide authentic and compassionate support as we journey with the students through the variety of challenges they face in throughout their studies.  Aside from Life Coaching and Counselling services, we also provide workshops on stress management, mindfulness and self-care through classroom visits with the help of non-profit organization like Anxiety NZ trust and Youthline.  

What challenges has lockdown posed for your team and how have you overcome them?

Providing virtual counselling via Zoom, phone calls and Skype is very challenging, but no matter how uncomfortable the digital setting can be, fear doesn't have the final say. Our hope and our resilience is built on caring for our students and each other, and that is exactly what shall be doing in the coming weeks as more students need emotional and psychological support in this difficult time.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 21-27 September.  Visit the Mental Health Awareness Week website to learn more and to explore this year’s theme: Re-imagining Wellbeing Together – He Tirohanga Anamata.  

Mental health awareness
Student Counsellor Flora Sta.Ana