Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May) came early at Hartpury College, as the institution welcomed sporting role models for a special men’s mental health event on Tuesday 2 May, delivered by The Mintridge Foundation and funded by the #28NotOut Max Hunter Fund.
Mental health advocates Nigel Owens MBE, an ex professional rugby referee and President of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, and Patrick Foster, an ex-professional cricket player, shared empowering life events and experiences that have impacted their own mental health. They each explained how they dealt with those events at the time and how they’ve continued to use their experiences in their continuing journey.
Residential students, predominantly studying agriculture and sport at Hartpury College, were stunned by Nigel and Patrick’s openness and vulnerability, especially when discussing their own mental health challenges on and off the sporting field. They also reminded students about the importance of recognising if a problem exists and seeking out help.
“Unless you admit that you’re struggling, then you won’t accept it and move on or take action,” said Nigel.
“When you’re faced with a problem, you run away. What you actually need to do is to address the problem and get your support network involved,” added Patrick.
The event was financed by the Max Hunter Fund, now being used to support young people and raise awareness about how they can look after their mental health. In memory of Max Hunter, who died by suicide in 2019, the Max Hunter Fund has been created to challenge stereotypes, and create change in a world where there is currently a mental health pandemic.
The event was delivered by The Mintridge Foundation, a registered charity that harnesses the unique platform of sporting ambassadors including Olympians, Paralympians, and other professional sports stars. The organisation delivers holistic, bespoke programmes to clubs and colleges across the UK for young people from all walks of life.
Katie Smith, Operations Director at The Mintridge Foundation said: “The Mintridge Foundation was delighted to deliver this men’s mental health evening at Hartpury College with Nigel Owens MBE and Patrick Foster. It’s great to be able to use the Max Hunter Fund to support more young people and raise awareness about how we can look after our mental health.”
Mental health and wellbeing at Hartpury
Meanwhile at Hartpury, a special ‘Healthy Habits’ presentation is showing throughout the month of May on screens at Graze - the popular restaurant, learning and conference facility that launched in September. The presentation underlines the importance of routine for mental health particularly focusing on sleep, diet, and exercise. It also gives students self-care tips to help manage stress levels and reminds them where they can find additional support. In December, Hartpury’s commitment to mental health was recognised by a University Mental Health Charter (UMHC) Award from Student Minds.
Research projects to explore mental health in Hartpury’s specialist industries are also underway, carried out by staff and students alike. For example, a Hartpury postgraduate student is using his NFU Centenary Bursary to fund research into dairy farmer wellbeing.
Throughout the year, university and college students can access 24/7 support. Hartpury’s Wellbeing Officers and Wellbeing & Enrichment Support Workers offer support to students via daily drop-ins and 1:1 appointments. Hartpury also employs BACP/UKCP registered and accredited counsellors providing 1:1 appointments to discuss a range of issues. Hartpury’s Achievement and Success Centre aims to boost achievement and students’ chances of securing their dream job. Within the Centre we focus on three key areas: Academic Support, Learning Support and Wellbeing Support.
The pinnacle of Hartpury’s wellbeing calendar is WellFest, taking place each September during Freshers’ and Welcome Week. The event provides information for students showing how they can access health and wellbeing support during their time at Hartpury and beyond. Hartpury also supports initiatives such as #MindYourHeadWeek, a nationwide event designed to raise awareness of mental health in agriculture.
In the last year, an emphasis has been placed on supporting students who may be struggling during the cost-of-living crisis, drawing on resources to provide them with the information and financial support they need to continue their studies. Hartpury University and Hartpury College provided around £2 million of financial support to students during the previous academic year, helping around one-quarter of college students and more than one-third of university students to continue with their studies as living costs rise.