To celebrate London Wellbeing Week 2020, the Urdang Academy are delighted to announce their first student group of mental health champions, volunteers who have qualified in Level 1 Mental Health Awareness Certificate and Suicide Awareness Training. Led by the Pastoral Care Manager at Urdang, Brenda Shankey, these students have been committed to gaining this qualification in order to really make a difference to the wellbeing of their peers. Brenda is a qualified coach and trainer in mindfulness, meditation, mental health awareness, suicide prevention and safeguarding, and has a vision to train as many teachers and students to provide the best mental health support, university-wide.
Brenda Shankey says: “This is such a powerful way forward for the wellbeing of our whole student community. I am privileged to lead these champions in training and ways in inspire, help and guide others through any mental health issues during their university journey.”
David Heal, a recently qualified champions adds: “There is still a huge stigma attached to mental health illness which makes it difficult for people to expose and admit their feelings. I know how hard it is to seek help. Having student-based support is innovative, as we understand exactly the experiences of being a student in current times. As mental health champions, we can make it easier and more comfortable to talk as we are more approachable. We can remove the awkwardness, risk and exposure of talking to a teacher, and we are on the ground with our fellow students so we have the opportunity to see and recognise early signs of a student’s struggle, and will be able to guide them to further help and support.”
In partnership with London Higher’s London Health and Wellbeing Network, Brenda has made the case for making wellbeing a priority to City Hall, participating in the ThriveLDN World Mental Health Day Festival in October 2019, running a meditation workshop to explore how to manage your mind for performance success, and she continues to seek to develop best practice in support services to ensure that staff and students thrive during their time at the Urdang, and beyond.
As part of the Alliance for Musical Theatre Conservatoires, Brenda will be sharing Urdang’s journey with other universities with the hope of creating student mental health champions in every institution. Working with others in London has been an important part of Urdang’s commitment to developing their wellbeing support and services, and exploring these innovative approaches, and London Wellbeing Week is a great opportunity showcase best practice.