Although the prime role of lecturers is to teach, educate and cultivate the potential in their students, in certain situations, they are also expected to help students with mental health issues. The student population can be facing mental issues because they are stressed out by a number of factors which include intense studying, continuous assessments and being away from the comfort of family.
To improve the prevention and intervention in instances involving mental health issues, the role of lecturers is indispensable. To what extent will lecturers react to these issues? Are they equipped with the knowledge to deal with mental health issues among their students and do they know how and where to get help for the students?
In view of these issues, the Faculty of Law of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTMLaw) in collaboration with UiTM Health Centre and UiTM Career and Counselling Centre organised a webinar on 20 May 2022 with the principal objective of creating awareness among the lecturers on their subsidiary role to deal with mental health issues among students.
It is submitted that in the absence of appropriate knowledge, the effort to assist the student may lead to a fruitless outcome. The keynote speaker was Dr Zaiton Nasir, the Director of UiTM Health Centre. The panellists comprise Dr Norhazlina Hashim, Medical Officer, UiTM Health Centre, Ms Wan Nurhashima Wan Sahid, Psychology Officer, UiTM Career and Counselling Centre and Dr Nor Jannah Nasution Raduan, Psychiatrist, UiTM Hospital. The webinar was moderated by Dr Diyana Sulaiman, UiTMLaw Lecturer.
The keynote speaker explained the common types of mental health conditions suffered by students namely depression, anxiety, panic attack, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress and sleep disorders. She also added that UiTM has established an integrated approach to ensure an effective mechanism to address this issue involving relevant stakeholders including UiTM Health Centre, UiTM Career and Career Centre, Islamic Affairs Division and Psychiatry Department. Additionally, UiTM has set up Healthy Mind Clinic under Health Centre in 2019 with the objective of providing easy access to treatment, reducing stigma and increasing life quality.
According to her, a comprehensive Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) has been developed highlighting proper process flow to be observed when facing mental health issues among students. The said SOP emphasises compliance with ethical requirements to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of the party involved. The first panellist talked about some tips for the educators in creating trusting relationships that centres upon care for the students and guided by a sense of belonging. It is important for the lecturers to equip themselves with the right knowledge regarding mental health issues. As best as possible, lecturers are encouraged in improving their communication skills that is essential in developing trust among students and conduct their actions without being judgemental. The lecturers are anticipated to have knowledge about the existing facilities which can be reached to help the students such as counselling services whether internally or externally and try to reduce the barriers to getting access to existing mental health facilities.
The second panellist provided her insight from the counsellors’ perspective. According to her, currently, the number of UiTM certified counsellors nationwide is 74. In helping the students, the lecturers may opt either to offer personal advice or guidance. Alternatively, if they are not able to do so, they may advise the students to get professional help through registration via the Counselling2U platform or directly call the respective counsellor in charge of the faculty. One of the important points highlighted by the last panellist is that the lecturers themselves must take care of their mental health before they can effectively offer a helping hand to the students.
It is hoped that this webinar will shed some light on the important role of the lecturers to detect the early signs of mental health among students and guide them on the right way in handling their situations.