Creative media and psychology colleges unite to tackle mental health issues

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23 Nov 2018

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Creative media and psychology colleges unite to tackle mental health issues

23 Nov 2018

In an effort to tackle the increased prevalence of mental health disorders among young people, two Australian education providers – SAE Creative Media Institute and the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP) - teamed up three years ago to launch a unique counselling service for creative media students.

Today, the free, on-campus and remote Student Counselling Placement Program is delivering critical support services to more than 160 students at SAE Creative Media Institute campuses across Australia.

During Australian Psychology week (11-17 November), SAE and ACAP colleagues are reflecting on the success of their collaborative project which aims to provide much-needed support for students managing a mental illness. 

The General Manager of SAE Australasia, Lee Aitken, said the Student Counselling Placement Program was initiated in direct response to a growing number of SAE students identifying with a mental health issue. 

“A recent report shows that just over one in four young Australians aged 16 to 24 has experienced a mental health disorder,” he said.

“At SAE, we were seeing an increasing trend in the number of people identifying as having a mental health issue, and saw a need to increase the level of support we were providing.

“What makes the Student Counselling Placement Program so unique is that is delivered by ACAP students, who are completing their final year of a Graduate Diploma or Bachelor Degree in Counselling, to students at SAE colleges around Australia.

“It’s a fantastic example of an innovative relationship between two Navitas colleges that provides tangible benefits for SAE students in terms of support, and ACAP students in terms of real world experience.”

Testament to the success of the counselling program, research conducted by La Trobe University in 2018 reports that SAE students have above average performance within the disabilities equity group (including mental health) compared to other Non-University Higher Education Institutions. 

The collaborative initiative was successfully piloted at the SAE Brisbane campus in February 2016, with almost 90 percent of respondents saying it was beneficial to have ACAP student counsellors onsite.  The counselling service was soon identified as a significant component to supporting student success.  Two months later in April the program was rolled out across all six Australian SAE campuses. 

ACAP graduates Katy Sadler and Manni Chuvan were offered the opportunity to complete their final year placements as counsellors with SAE.

“The experience of counselling at SAE has been so valuable to me. It has helped me to confirm that I enjoy working with students. I was able to integrate the knowledge and skills I had learned through my study at ACAP into my counselling sessions in order to consolidate my skills as a counsellor,” said Katy.

In the program, ACAP Student Counsellors deliver confidential, one-hour counselling sessions to SAE students. Much of the therapeutic work is short-term and is often focused on addressing course-related difficulties such as workload stress and anxiety. Students are also taught coping skills to help manage the academic and personal pressures relating to their studies. The counselling service also addresses broader issues such as relationship difficulties, trauma and crisis, depression, anxiety, body image and sexuality.

One day a week over eight months, the ACAP students worked from their local SAE campus counselling students under the supervision of Clinical Supervisor and SAE Counsellor, Sarah Forman. Sarah is responsible for overseeing the counselling program. As well as monitoring cases, she provides supervision and guidance to all placement counsellors. 

“At SAE, we really try to stay ahead of the curve by introducing innovative programs such as this. I’m proud to be a part of it. This is testament to the dedication of staff at ACAP and SAE to student wellbeing,” Ms Forman said. 

Complementing this project is the work undertaken by SAE’s National Manager of Student Experience, Shereen Metry, to improve the Student Access Plan program available to all SAE students with disabilities. 

“Our students are active participants and engage with their individual program. Their personalised plan becomes part of their successful journey through study to graduation. As a niche institute, we are able to provide this essential personalised service very effectively,” Ms Metry said.