SFC news published since 2018. See SFC archived content for earlier news articles.

In our guest blog for University Mental Health Day, Alex Weir writes about three support groups making a real difference to student wellbeing at UHI Perth. 

In recent years, Student Services staff at UHI Perth and colleagues across the educational sector have noticed a rising number of students expressing feelings of loneliness and related well-being concerns. To address these challenges, we aimed to cultivate a renewed sense of community, fostering empathy, understanding, and a profound sense of belonging among students. Over the course of the last few years UHI Perth have developed several support groups for students including The Man Cave, Neurodiverse Group, and LGBT+ & Allies group. 

The process of setting up The Man Cave group first started in 2022 when I became aware of a group set up at West Lothian College with the focus of tackling the stigma linked with males accessing mental health and wellbeing support. UHI Perth has long worked with organisations like Andy’s Man Club and is very aware of the significant impact such support groups can have in fostering a sense of community and improving wellbeing. After some initial discussions and advice with West Lothian staff the decision was made that we too would set up a Man Cave group within our own organisation catering more specifically for our students and offering a space for open dialogue and camaraderie. In a society where traditional notions of masculinity often discourage vulnerability this group offers a refreshing departure. Here, students can share their struggles, triumphs, and everything in between, free from judgment or societal expectations. The Man Cave group at UHI Perth formally started in March 2023 and since that time has continued to grow and evolve with the students that attend. The Man Cave group works to limit the damage caused as a result of isolation and loneliness by offering a space for students to foster authentic connections and encouraging open & honest expression. 

Similarly, the Neurodiverse Group offers a lifeline to students with neurodivergent traits, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. In a world that often misunderstands or marginalizes neurodiverse individuals, this group provides a sense of belonging, understanding and asks nothing more than students to be themselves. Prior to this group being formed staff UHI Perth would see students with Neurodiverse conditions struggle coming into the academic environment and struggling to find their footing. Through the shared experiences and mutual support students received while attending the group, students have been able navigate the academic landscape with greater confidence and resilience. By celebrating neurodiversity rather than stigmatising it, the Neurodiverse Group not only improves students’ wellbeing but also fosters a culture of inclusivity and acceptance within our community. The Neurodiverse group started in September of 2022 and is still running every week offering students a space to be themselves. Students who attend the group have expressed that the Neurodiverse group has had a hugely positive impact on their educational objectives and overall well-being. With a number of students noting that the group served as a consistent presence in what can be a fast-moving and uncertain environment. 

Conversely, the LGBT+& Allies group provides a sanctuary for students of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. In a society where discrimination and prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community still persist, this group offers a safe haven where students can express themselves authentically and without fear. Through advocacy, support, and community-building initiatives, the group not only combats feelings of isolation but also promotes greater understanding and acceptance campus-wide. This year the group support the student association to organise a UHI Perth Pride event to raise awareness.  This student led group first started running in October 2022 and runs every week of the academic calendar and is facilitated in cooperation between Student Services and our student association (HISA). 

The benefits of these support groups extend far beyond mere camaraderie. They are pivotal in improving student’s mental health by creating a sense of belonging and offering people a space to be themselves .  By providing a space where students can connect with like-minded peers and access resources and activities tailored to their unique needs, these groups play a crucial role in supporting students’ academic success and alleviate the pressures of university life. 

For many students, university life can be an overwhelming experience, fraught with academic pressures, social expectations, and personal challenges. In such times, having a support system in place can make all the difference. Whether it’s finding comfort in shared experiences, receiving practical advice, or simply knowing that they’re not alone, the members of these support groups derive immense benefits from their participation. 

In conclusion, the support groups at UHI Perth—The Man Cave, Neurodiverse Group, and LGBT+& Allies group—exemplify the transformative power of community and solidarity. By facilitating connections and mutual support, these groups are not only reducing isolation and loneliness but also fostering a culture of inclusivity and acceptance that benefits the entire community and ensure that every student has the support they need to thrive. 

Alex Weir, Mental Health Co-Ordinator, UHI Perth