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Flowers by the river Cam, Magdalene Fellows Garden.
Magdalene Matters

Health and Wellbeing at Magdalene

The Health and Wellbeing Service at Magdalene supports students who are experiencing physical or mental health, psychological and wellbeing difficulties.

It consists of a nurse who has been supporting students for over seven years, and more recently a new Head of Wellbeing who is also a counsellor.

The service offers short-term support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them maintain their physical and mental wellbeing while at College. This includes interventions such as biopsychosocial assessments, advice and information, brief solution-focused therapy and other psychological interventions, health promotion and illness prevention services.

Students can come to the service with any issue impacting on their wellbeing. Whether it’s mental health, physical health, disability-related or other, we will discuss what their needs are in terms of academic or clinical need, and either support them directly or refer them to the University’s centralised mental health service or the NHS. For those who require longer-term support or specialised treatment, the student is supported to access this provision via a private means.

Health and Wellbeing Service Catriona and Taryn

College Nurse, Taryn Rothwell (left), and Head of Student Wellbeing, Catriona Keane (right).

To offer coordinated support to students, we work closely with the wider College Welfare Team including the Senior Tutor, Tutors, Academic Office Staff, the College Chaplain and Head Porter. These collaborative relationships ensure that the students receive the best support, tailored to their needs.

Students can register with the health and wellbeing service online or by emailing the service directly. They can also be referred by their tutor and students will obtain an appointment within 1-2 days.

Wellbeing Events and Services

In addition to the individual support, the Health and Wellbeing Service facilitated several wellbeing activities for Lent 2023. These activities were grounded in the five ways to wellbeing: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Learn and Give. For example, Laughter yoga was offered to students, which is known to reduce stress and strengthen the immune system. Laughter is a positive energy that improves quality of life and makes us more resilient. Laughter helps to create a positive mental state, giving hope and optimism.

A workshop entitled “How Art Thou” was offered to students who find it difficult to articulate their feelings, express how they feel or put their feelings into words. The art-related method is designed to help students become more aware of hard-to-reach feelings or to become more aware of what they feel. The method can alleviate symptoms of distress, help students put language on their emotions and improve their general well-being and experience.

Tea at three has become a weekly Wednesday fixture and it encourages students to make conscious decisions to rest, reset and take a break without feeling guilty. This includes students getting together informally, building on and strengthening existing connections within Magdalene, as well as alleviating loneliness. We had a special spotty guest Mara the Dalmatian attend tea at three on the last week of term; she was a hit and students enjoyed her visit.

Plenty of studies have shown that being in nature can have a positive impact on our mood. Gardening, being in green spaces and being around water can all improve our wellbeing. This became particularly clear during the pandemic when many people in cities had limited access to natural environments. We teamed up with the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and arranged a walk from Magdalene to the Botanical Gardens to experience and learn more about the snowdrop trail. Mark, Magdalene’s Head Gardener, also encourages students to volunteer with him and his team on the College grounds.

In addition to the formal and informal activities, students receive a Weekly Wednesday Wellbeing Bulletin, which provides students with updates from the Health and Wellbeing service, MCR and JCR committees, Chaplain, Gardener, Alumni Office and the library. It is centred on highlighting the academic and wellbeing support available within College and encouraging students to reach out at the point of need. It also acts as a gentle reminder to students to do one (or more) thing(s) per week to look after their mental health and engage in activities to increase their sense of belonging within the Magdalene community.

By Ms Catriona Keane, Head of Student Wellbeing

This article was first published in Magdalene Matters Spring/Summer 2022 Issue 53.