Openly supporting students with Openspace

London Met launches a new counselling service to support its students.

Date: 03 June 2020

By Adebukola Fadipe, BA Journalism Film and Television Studies

London Metropolitan University has launched the Openspace, a new service to help facilitate the wellbeing of students, in response to the challenges raised by COVID-19. It will operate as a series of webinars running every Wednesday at 2-3 pm via the University’s Collaborate portal, with the hope that they will continue beyond summer. The initiative has been coordinated by the University’s new Centre for Equity and Inclusion led by Dr Zainab Khan, and speaker and creative Vanessa M Wilson. 

Dr Khan, who is also Pro Vice-Chancellor for Outcomes and Inclusion at the University said, “The principal aim of the OpenSpace is to support students in maintaining a positive mindset and to promote good emotional well-being through an informal, online community which fosters a sense of belonging within the University community.

“It is one of the ways we want to help mitigate the effects of loneliness, isolation and anxiety. It is not a form of therapy, any students requiring professional support are directed to counselling or the formal Wellbeing Services. It complements the student services provision. The sessions were piloted in May and we hope to build upon them over the summer if they prove popular.”

Speaking about how the Openspace works and aims to help students, Dr Khan said, “It’s a unique and innovative approach to supporting students by connecting them with relatable facilitators who have proximity to their lived experience and also experience in developing and facilitating discussion around mental health.”

One of those supported students is final year student Jenae Barratt, 28. Having attended two sessions so far she spoke about it saying, “I’m not sure what I expected but I loved it and will surely go again. I really love the community spirit at London Met and I'm grateful that they’ve taken actions to keep that community spirit alive whilst we are in lockdown. 

"It was nice talking to someone other than my mum. I have friends I keep in touch with but I’m sure they’re all going through their own issues; I wouldn’t want to burden them with mine, so it was good to be able to discuss such heavy issues with likeminded people,” said the Film and Television student.

Zainab and Vanessa had previously collaborated on a mental health event for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic university students in London and they wanted to support London Met students during lockdown. Wilson said, “We really want to encourage students to give the Openspace a go - everyone is welcome. We will all have good days and challenging days during lockdown – students should see this as time to invest in themselves.”

students walking
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