NTU spent £9m on a new building whilst their support services are still terrible and I’m pissed
The money used for the building could have been put into bettering the mental health services
Saying that uni students have suffered throughout this pandemic would be an understatement. I’d rather do Henry Cavill’s aggressive workout regime every day for a year than relive the past one.
Some of us were locked in our halls for weeks on end with poor food supplies and many of us have seen the abuse being hurled at students by Notts’ locals.
So many of us have felt isolated, hopeless and abandoned by the government and our universities. There’s even been some students who have tried to take their own lives. Some, sadly, were successful.
It’s because of this that when I saw the news of the new NTU building, I scowled at my phone screen.
Around a month ago, Nottingham Trent University opened the four-story Dryden Enterprise Centre on its city campus. Given the Covid-induced events of the past year, I don’t really think it’s money well spent.
You’d think funding better counselling services and other mental health-related programmes for Notts’ students would be more efficient than a new building. Especially during a pandemic that has catapulted people’s minds into extremely dark territory and especially when there are many stories out there about how university mental health services need improvement – drastically.
‘I was told to drop out’
Liv Hutchings, a first-year Zoology student at UoN, had a phone appointment with the counselling services during her first term as she was “in a very dark place” and felt “lonely.”
“I [told the counselling service] that I’ve had issues with mental health since a very young age and that my mum has offered to pay for private counselling. The lady on the phone basically said to go do that and didn’t offer any support from the actual uni.
“I just felt a bit disregarded because I wanted a support plan or something from the actual uni. I feel like they just couldn’t be bothered to ‘deal’ with me when someone else can.”, said Liv.
An NTU student, 22-year-old Evelina*, told me of a similar negative experience with her uni’s counselling team.
“I got put through to an academic counsellor who just told me that if I wasn’t enjoying the course to leave it. I was having trouble at home too and dropping out and starting again was easier said than done.
“Then, I got passed to a proper counsellor who dealt with mental health. I sat for an hour explaining all my problems, issues with friendships, home life and afterwards, they said they couldn’t help me or do anything unless I had a DSA (Disabled Students Allowance). I found this ridiculous. When I studied at college I was able to access a therapist for free with no questions asked. I eventually gave up.”, told Evelina.
The fact students are feeling dismissed and abandoned by the service that sets out to help them is a huge issue. We shouldn’t have to feel that if we talk to a staff member about our problems, we might come away feeling worse than we did before we spoke to them. We also shouldn’t feel invalidated, misunderstood or that uni-based therapy is a waste of time.
I was curious to know what Nottingham Trent University thought about concerns held by people like Evelina* and whether it’s considered if a bigger investment in mental health services is more essential than a new building.
A spokesperson for NTU told The Tab Notts, “Our top priority has and will always be our students’ health and wellbeing. We’re committed to ensuring students have access to a wide range of health and wellbeing services and we have invested significantly this year in specialist mental health staff and services.
“We know that students want to access support in different ways, so we offer online resources, such as Student Space and Silvercloud – which is accessed by 1,500 students each year – and also 1-2-1 support from our wellbeing advisers, mental health support team, counselling service and student support advisers.
As an ambitious university however, it’s important that we invest in both our facilities and services for the benefit of our students.”, said the NTU spokesperson.
I don’t, for a second, think that NTU doesn’t care about its students; the same goes for UoN. Still, I can’t help but feel that when concerns are raised, the responses often miss the mark.
We know the services are there but the issue is that so many of us don’t feel they’re effective. Even though the new NTU building comes from a place of good intention, isn’t better support for students more important than a campus’ cosmetic update?
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please look at the resources below:
Some names have been changed to preserve anonymity.