A roundtable discussion with students and staff of Heriot-Watt University Malaysia (HWUM) and the Green Ribbon Group (GRG) was held recently, raising awareness on mental health issues.
Moderated by Marsya Shamshul Bahari, Advocacy & Programmes Executive at GRG, the roundtable gathered opinions and experiences on three topics - (i) the Covid-19 pandemic and its disruptions to daily life; (ii) mental health awareness and the experience of stigma amongst university students; and (iii) peer support and the importance of having a strong support system.
In her welcoming remarks, GRG Founder and President YAM Tengku Puteri Raja Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah stated that open discussions on youth mental health is very much needed, especially from the youth themselves, given the challenges of the pandemic and the transition towards the endemic phase of Covid-19.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we must learn to manage disruptions to our everyday lives; mental health is the foundation that we must get right, and positive attitudes towards mental health should be cultivated from young,” according to YAM Tengku Puteri.
The unprecedented nature of the pandemic led to sudden shifts in everyday activities. During the pandemic, many students and staff reported an increase in anxiety and sense of entrapment. To ensure that students can progress their studies despite the challenging situation, the University implemented its Responsive Blended Learning. The lack of physical interactions made the creation of a sense of community challenging. All year one (1) students were put in digital Impact Groups where students discovered their sense of purpose and developed a sense of belonging.
The pandemic also had some positive effects. These include more awareness and acceptance of mental health amongst university students and more support towards one another on social media. Generally, tertiary students seem to be more receptive towards reaching out and checking in with one another.
The roundtable is not the first time that GRG and HWUM had worked together. In November 2021, Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, HWUM Provost & Chief Executive Officer (CEO), facilitated an Impact Statement Workshop for the GRG team.
Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi said: “Heriot-Watt University and Green Ribbon Group share common values and purpose and the passion to promote positive mental health and resilience through positive education among our youth. We are pleased to work with them on this mental health initiative.”
“Mental health is a global issue that is impacting national productivity and competitiveness. At HWU, we adopt positive education that supports the holistic development of students, emphasising three important components: academic excellence, mental and physical well-being, as well as character building. It is our duty to nurture purpose-driven leaders who are equipped with skills and attitudes that will enable them to flourish in a highly uncertain and increasingly complex world,” Professor Mushtak added.
Building on this growing partnership, a 1.5-day training programme called The Green Ribbon Effective Agent Training (GREAT) Project will be held at the university in October 2022.