Student wellbeing support doesn’t have to be complicated

Student wellbeing, wellness, support and security have become top priorities for students and parents alike since the pandemic. Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo discusses this significance.

Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo | Nido Living | PBSA News
Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo.

Four years on from the outbreak of Covid-19 and the student world has learned a lot. No longer are freshers’ week vodka discounts the prime concern of recent cohorts, but social inclusivity and wellbeing have taken over, and health and security too when it comes to the parents’ concerns.

By Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo on behalf of Nido Living

An early adopter of how important wellbeing was becoming was leading European student accommodation provider Nido Living, who brought me on board in 2021 to help them devise wellbeing toolkits and strategies to support students in this new era. 

Through this work, and via the group and virtual sessions we curated for the students, I have seen that ‘pastoral care’ has soared up the list of requirements and, as expected, no one student has the same concerns as others. But a number of them are related to loneliness, making friends, and, of course, the cost of living which indirectly has impacted their health and wellbeing and, in many cases, their physical health – such as the ability to sleep.

It’s impossible to devise a strategy for each one of Nido’s 4,000+ students, as much as we’d like to. However, mental health support doesn’t always have to be complicated either. This mental health week, with the theme being ‘Movement: Moving more for mental health’, one of our simplest ideas carries real significance and has been the source of some of the most positive feedback out of many initiatives. 

Our popular ‘walk and talk’ sessions are exactly as they sound – we meet, we walk, and we talk – or not if people don’t feel like it, it may be just an outing with companionship. Ideally the walks take place in a green space, but a city route also works – perhaps with some beautiful architecture around. We have plenty of these in European cities where Nido’s assets are based. 

The absolute key to these is to hold them at the same place and same time every single week. Feedback tells us that just knowing that they’re there is a safety blanket for people, even if they don’t turn up. 

We have regular people joining us week after week, sometimes new faces and sometimes people bring friends or come alone. There is no pressure to divulge what’s on one’s mind, it’s an informal opportunity to speak, walk and make friends, or simply not be alone for that segment of time set aside.

And, of course, the positive impacts of getting fresh air and embarking on gentle exercise are a boost to all who take part. Walking is often more effective than going to the gym, the benefits are just as immediate but without the competitive and often off-putting culture. For people with any form of anxiety for example, a gentle walk requires much less anticipation than psyching oneself up for an intensive workout session. 

There are plenty of ways to practice wellbeing, the Nido toolkit covers a lot of these and of course there are many other workstreams Nido and I continue to develop, to deliver nuanced initiatives for the residents in the Nido community. 

However, this mental health week, we wanted to start small and highlight that simplicity is often the best way to start looking after yourself (and others), particularly when it comes to ‘movement’. In student accommodation, having these ideas and initiatives in place can be a massive positive – and something we consider essential – considering the key concerns of this part of the population in 2024.