What is a Wellbeing Secretary?
A Wellbeing Secretary is a member of the committee solely focused on ensuring that members’ wellbeing is at the forefront of all activity. This means making sure your events are an inclusive environment for any student to get involved, and taking into consideration their wellbeing whilst at the event. You are also a point of contact for members if they have any issues and you should do your best to signpost them on to the most appropriate service or share helpful resources with anyone struggling.
It is important to note here that a Wellbeing Secretary is not there to diagnose a student’s mental health condition, or to solely support a member with their mental health/any issues they are struggling with. You should always put your own mental health first and not allow this role to have a detrimental effect on your studies or mental wellbeing.
What is expected of you?
As a Wellbeing Secretary, you should:
- Attend Mental Health Awareness Training at the beginning of the year in order to be fully equipped to be effective and knowledgeable in the role
- Be a point of contact for members struggling with group or personal issues
- Use your knowledge from training to signpost members to the relevant Students’ Union, University or external services
- Go the extra mile at the beginning of the year to ensure members or prospective members are cared for and treated with respect
- Make an effort to facilitate open discussions about mental health, and attempt to develop your group's understanding of wellbeing through events, activities or campaigns
- Have an oversight of your group’s events and activities and make sure welfare of members is always considered
- Create an inclusive environment, so that members feel safe to talk about mental health experiences
- Not be solely responsible for the welfare of a member. Identifying when a student needs to see someone else and when their own wellbeing is at risk
- Understand when a situation needs to be escalated to the Student Opportunities team
Setting boundaries is one of the most important things you should do as a Wellbeing Secretary and this can help to ensure your own mental health and wellbeing remains a top priority. To do this, you need to know your own limits and feel comfortable saying to others when your own mental health needs to take precedent.
It’s perfectly okay to be honest with members and recommend they speak to other services. Why not try one of these messages:
- “I’m really sorry but I don’t think I am the best person to speak to right now. My own mental wellbeing is quite low. But why don’t you talk to the Wellbeing or Counselling team on campus, they would be able to give you the support you need. I’m more than happy to walk with you to make an appointment.”
- “I’m really sorry but as a committee member I can only signpost to other services and I’m unable to offer any further support because I’m not equipped or trained to do so. But here are some services that could help, or have you thought about booking an appointment with Royal Holloway counselling?”
Set these expectations and boundaries early on in the year so people know what to expect and understand that there is a limit to the support you are able to provide.
Top Tip: At one of the first member meetings you hold, why not introduce yourself and your role, making sure to explain what they can expect from you and highlighting how you are able to signpost.
Knowing when to escalate
It is also important to know when to escalate. The mental wellbeing of your members does not lie solely on your shoulders, so please use the resources available to you!
You should keep in touch with the Student Opportunities team and let them know of any issues that are occurring. Additionally, you can email the Wellbeing team [firstname.lastname@example.org] with any concerns you may have about members and they will be able to reach out to the individual and check in with them directly.
Here is a template email you could send to the Wellbeing team:
My name is … and I am the Wellbeing Secretary of [Student Group]. I have been in touch with a student in our group and they are experiencing a few issues, such as ...
I feel that this student would really benefit from some support and I would appreciate if you could reach out to them, if they are not someone already on your radar.
[add more detail about the circumstances as necessary]
It would be great if you could reach out to [student’s name], to see how they are and make sure they have the correct support in place going forward.
What support is available to you?
All year round: Peer to peer support in Wellbeing Secretary MS Teams Channel
Mental Health Awareness Training
As part of Student Group Training in the summer, we hold a Mental Health Awareness training session aimed at all wellbeing secretaries and related roles. The session aims to help reduce the stigma around mental health, and to help empower students to create open discussions and an inclusive environment for people to be able to talk about their own mental health experiences. The session also covers how prevalent mental health is in universities, symptoms you may spot in your student group, some useful signposting resources, and what you can do in your role. You’ll be given a handout as part of the session, which alongside this resource pack will equip you with the tools needed to be a Wellbeing Secretary.
The session is also delivered throughout term one and term two in case anyone was unable to attend the main session at Student Group Training, and there is a specific refresher session available in February.
Wellbeing Secretary Committee Cafe
Committee cafes are a space where committee members are able to support each other, peer to peer. Sometimes having a fellow Wellbeing Secretary to confide in can make all the difference so the committee cafe will be a space where you can share tips and best practices, build a connection with those having similar experiences, and discuss potential collaborations on welfare focused events.
There will be staff present to facilitate conversations and offer guidance as well to make sure you get the most out of the session as possible. Details about committee cafes will get emailed in term one so make sure to keep an eye out.
Monthly Wellbeing Secretary Check-ins
The Student Opportunities team holds weekly check-ins available for committees to discuss any matters relating to their group. However, we realise that Wellbeing Secretaries may need to discuss matters in more detail, or need a space to just unload. So there are monthly check-ins specifically available for all welfare related roles where you can talk to a member of the Student Opportunities team. Sign up here.
Wellbeing Secretary MS Teams Channel
Want to share some helpful resources you have come across? Or do you need some tips on how to make your event more welfare friendly? Or perhaps your group is hosting an event aimed at improving wellbeing that you want to share with other Wellbeing Secretaries? The MS Teams channel is the place to go!
Available to all welfare related roles, you can post any quick tips, or questions you may have, allowing for peer to peer support all year round. The Student Opportunities team will also post updates about mental health training and committee cafes here.