Reflective Positioning Statement
Who we met
We met with AUT students who we approached using the intercept interview method. The students ranged between to those at the end of their first years, right through to students completing their Master’s Degree. Before this stage, we spent time together as a group planning the best strategies for creating the questions.
Ning was invaluable in this process. She aided us to craft excellent, open-ended questions based around the hunches that we had formed. These hunches covered topics such as orientation is an information overload, so if students do learn about the Health and Well-being centre they are likely to forget it by the time they might really need the service. We have a hunch that students with English as a second language would create a barrier to seeking help. We also suspected that being from a culture that might be less likely to seek support will affect the student’s likely hood of reaching.
Surprises we discovered
We were very surprised by the sheer volume of students, that no matter how long they had been attending AUT had little, or no awareness of the Health Centre, in terms of its existence, how the service works, or the fact that it’s free.
We were surprised to discover that the Health Centre needs to be easy to find, AND private. This is so that students who may be embarrassed about seeking health care will still feel safe to do so.
Another fact we discovered while talking to our interview participants was how little awareness they were of their peer’s mental health. We believe this could be in part to emotional maturity, and/or because Mental Health, despite increasing awareness, is still taboo for many of our AUT Students. One subject we spoke to said that they did know people from their degree who were having what they considered depression and/or anxiety. When asked if they had thought to discuss this with their friend they said it hadn’t even entered their head, and that “I probably should.”
I was unsurprised to find out that there are still some negative feelings surrounding the support offered by the Health and Well-being centre. I was surprised that there were still students who are not deterred, but this and ‘gave them another try’. This, I believe, is due to this subject’s family background, or being aware, and encouraged to seek mental health support, and having a good understanding of how the process works.
We were all surprised to discover that there are AUT services that are supporting students well. Two services mentioned were the Maori Liaison service and the UniPrep course. With specific positive comments made about UniPrep, in terms of preparing the student to start university, and being aware of services such as the Health and Well-being Centre.
It would game-changing if we were able to ensure that every single AUT student feels as supported and valued by our university. We believe it would game-changing for many students if they were provided with unobtrusive reminders of the services. These reminders would include facts like the services are of good quality, a free service and in a range of languages. Having comprehensive coverage will reduce the barriers to students to seek help. It would be game-changing if AUT could offer a variety of mental health classes alongside academic classes, provided quick start guides to keeping yourself emotionally safe while studying, and built a holistic programme of well-being around the Health and Well-being centre. It would be game-changing if the Health service at AUT were reported as a main attraction of AUT University, which would, in turn, create positive word of mouth, and result in greater awareness reaching the students who most need support.