Unpacking the KCLSU Presidential Candidates’ Mental Health Policies

Roar summarised the candidate proposals for improving KCL’s mental health services and compared them to the services currently offered at King’s. Are there any real innovative ideas?

Student mental health is undoubtedly a key topic of importance in the election for KCLSU President as there seems a general consensus that King’s is not providing adequate mental health services for its students who are struggling with social and academic pressures or mental illness. The task of bridging this gap will be an important responsibility of whoever is elected President of KCLSU. All but two of the candidates introduce some type of plan regarding student mental health in their manifesto, however several of the suggestions are vague and many introduce ideas that are already in place, suggesting that they have either not researched the current mental health programs or are trying to pass the ideas off as their own.

Candidates’ Policies

Antoine Morizur-Bruller

  • KCLSU-funded additional counsellors in order to reduce waiting times
  • Chinese-speaking counsellors to support the largest minority population at KCL

Danny Al-Khafaji

  • Introduce a weekly open discussion that everyone can come to and speak to combat loneliness
  • Introduce social media workshops to guide students in social media use
  • A new centralised mental health flag-up database system

Claudia Watts

  • Funding for mental health groups so that they can offer support

Carrie Toptan (shared at February 28 Hustings)

  • Introduce peer counselling run by Psychology students

Shaswat Jain

  • Make KCLSU services better known
  • Support campaigns regarding mental health

Mohamed Salhi

  • Scrap 40% cap on late submissions to decrease academic pressure

Niccolo Fantini:

No mental health platform is included in his manifesto and he did not attend election hustings to elaborate on the issue.

Mental Health Services Currently Available at King’s

KCLSU – Positive Peers

  • Offers peer support and is run by King’s Health Students
  • Offers workshops at King’s residences including “Cooking & Conversation” aimed at combating loneliness and the “Wellbeing Workshop” aimed at helping students achieve long term goals and decrease pressure

KCLSU – ThinkMental Society

  • Campaigns against the stigma of mental illness
  • Workshops including “International Lunch” and the fortnightly “Tea & Talk”

KCLSU – Campaigns

  • “Mind what matters, KCL”, October 2018
  • Events such as “Rise – Music and Mental Health”

KCL Counselling Services

  • Peer Support: run by students trained by the King’s Counselling & Mental Health Support Team
  • Long-Term and Short-Term support groups
  • Workshops such as “Exam Anxiety”, “Procrastination”, “Men & Mental Health”, and one focused on members of the LGBT community

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Viewing these lists comparatively, there are few new ideas when it comes to improving student mental health. Toptan’s suggestion of introducing peer support is not innovative in light of the two established peer support groups, one run by KCL Counselling services and one run by KCLSU. Al-Khafaji’s idea to introduce workshops and open discussions to combat loneliness is also a case of tautology.

The most innovative ideas by the presidential candidates are Salhi’s idea to scrap the 40% cap on late submissions and Al-Kafaji’s idea of a student mental health database, both of which might be difficult to realise and opens questions regarding academic standards and ethics behind a database containing the private health information of students.

Could the greatest problem besides the long waiting-list and low funding be a lack of visibility when it comes to student mental health support? 

The several sources of support available to King’s students do not gain adequate promotion for presidential candidates to know they exist in the first place nor for students to know their options. Jain made an interesting point at the February 28 Election hustings where he argued that a key goal is to make the services better known to students.