GUEST POST: Madeleine Siniscalchi, Student Research Partner at the Greater Manchester Universities Student Mental Health Service
My name is Madeleine Siniscalchi and I'm working as part of a team to evaluate the Greater Manchester Universities' Student Mental Health Service. I've written about institutional partnerships and student co-production through the lens of our project, with the link being partnership working.
Greater Manchester Universities Student Mental Health Service is excited to be part of the Student Mental Health Partnerships Project funded by the Office for Students. Our project, evaluating the Greater Manchester Universities’ Student Mental Health Service (GMUSMHS), is one of 5 NHS-higher education partnership projects that have developed across the country in efforts to meet the rising demand for student mental health support. We aim to evaluate the Greater Manchester Mental Health Service and its relationships with the Greater Manchester higher education institutions (HEIs) and third-sector mental health organizations. We are exploring the experiences of GMUSMHS users hoping to highlight why this service is important to students’ health, wellbeing, and university outcomes.
The project team is comprised of students representing all five Greater Manchester HEIs: University of Manchester, University of Salford, University of Bolton, the Royal Northern College of Music, and Manchester Metropolitan University. Among us are students of psychology, political science, music, medicine, health and social care, and biomedical science. Our wide-ranging skillset and experience afford us many perspectives, enabling better connection with the students we work with.
Our psychology student partners are versed in the clinical language of the GMUSMHS, psychological research practices, and have foundational knowledge of the various mental health issues students are living with. This is vital in our evaluation design, data analysis, and navigation through partnerships with various mental health services.
No student lives in a service-student vacuum. Our lives, opportunities, and access to support are direct results of our social and public health policies; our partners in political science understand how these policies affect the lives and experiences of service-users. If we fail to consider the context of students’ lives, we paint half a picture.
Our partners in medicine and biomedical science understand that mental health is not just psychological. Many service-users come with complex trauma or generational mental health problems.
The student partners studying music have experience building and working with student communities through the Students’ Union, education and community projects, and working with young people with special emotional and educational needs. They help our team connect with service-users and empower them to share their stories.
Our diverse skillset has helped us design and deliver workshops for service-users to share their experiences with the GMUSMHS. We’ve written a report for the GMUSMHS board, fed-back to the Clinical Reference and Operations Groups, and used this initial work to inform future steps. We are currently planning our third set of workshops to build a more comprehensive picture of the service-user experience.
Some of our partners have co-hosted team training sessions in areas specific to their expertise and course material (such as facilitation or data protection) so we can learn from each other more formally.
Our ability to conduct this project while also being full-time students is in large part because we focus heavily on teamwork and have built lines of communication and trust within the team. As the role has progressed, we’ve taken more initiative and been encouraged to take on more responsibility for the direction of our evaluation. This trust and empowerment within the team is a direct result of the co-production ethos.
Co-production (students and institutions making joint decisions on process and outcomes) is essential because itacknowledges that service-users, as well as our student partners, have valuable insight and expertise. We believe this respect and communication between institutions, staff, and students is essential to partnerships and a healthy dialogue about student mental health.
If you’d like to know more, please feel free to follow us on Facebook or contact Madeleine at Madeleine.Siniscalchi@manchester.ac.uk
We are using this blog to help connect stakeholders across Higher Education interested in student mental health. If you have a project you are working on or an idea you'd like to develop, why not write your own blog post for us?