Do you have any advice for other tutors that might be struggling with the changing mental health needs of their students?
Just because [a student] has a mental health issue, it doesn’t mean they can’t fulfil their aspirations. In my experience, sometimes not working compounds the problem. It can lead to a feeling of shame and opens them to inner-critic attacks, which can make them even more avoidant. Oftentimes working (sometimes in a more straightforward way – say, simple location drawing for example) is the way out of a hole. The sense of achievement leads to increased self-esteem, and slowly they can come back to more balance.
And if you can afford it, or you can get your university to pay for it, do a short counselling skills course. It’s brilliant. You would be a hugely valuable asset in terms of the course, and it’s also valuable for an individual teacher’s sense of safety and self-competence. Nurses do it, why don’t we?
Do you have any advice for students?
Don’t rush into higher education. Take some time out before university. The students who have had a year or two out before university tend to be more stable, motivated and able to deal with disappointment. In addition, your pre-frontal lobes – the part of the brain that deals with perspective-taking and self-regulation – don’t stop growing until you are 25. Maybe higher education comes too early?
Also, there’s a massive misunderstanding about what what university is for. Often at open days, I talk to A-Level students and they just want to get their degree as quickly as possible. They see a piece of paper with a grade on it as being the point of university, rather than as an experience where you’re growing in all kinds of directions.