World Mental Health Day: An Interview with our VP of Welfare
If you’ve been to any student events, you’ve probably seen her wandering around. If you’ve ever visited the uwsu.com website, you’ve definitely seen her. But little do you know what she does behind the scenes.
Lubaba Khalid is the University of Westminster’s Students Union Vice President of Welfare. “What is that?” you might ask. Well, so did I.
Hannah: So what does the VP of Welfare do on a day-to-day basis?
Lubaba: This job is one of many surprises – everyday is a different day. It could be from attending the different university committees such as the Health and Safety and Wellbeing committee to literally sitting down with students and making sure their wellbeing and their welfare is their own priority, but also making sure that if there are any issues that may be occurring, bringing it up on the relevant committees and the relevant people within the institution.
H: What is your experience in welfare?
L: So my understanding of my own personal experiences of welfare and wellbeing are that I am diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed when I was in year 13 at school and I made sure I went in and got the necessary support.
I think, because of my own personal experiences with the system, with the different stakeholders such as the NHS, my family, even just looking after myself, that really got me quite passionate about making sure that we provide services within the university that students can go to if they need anything.
This is something that I’m genuinely very very passionate about. I’m very passionate about making sure students are looking after themselves, are making sure that their wellbeing is their priority because we can only do so much. However, it’s also important that we provide those support systems to students so they are able to look after themselves.
I’m very passionate about making sure students are looking after themselves
H: You were previously the BAME Officer at the University, why the change?
L: The BAME Officer role was a part-time role that I could only do while I was studying, however there were quite a few things such as the work around the attainment gap and racial equality within our institution that I really want to carry on working on, so that’s why I ran for welfare.
H: As far as support for students’ wellbeing, what does the Students Union have to offer?
L: So as a Students Union, we have numerous aspects within the Union that can support student wellbeing and welfare. From trying to encourage students to join a society or sports, which tends to help tackle student loneliness to providing basic listening services. I, for example, as the Welfare Officer am able to just sit down and talk to a student to see how I can support them.
We are able to do signposting as well so if a student does come to us and we’re not able to do anything then we can signpost them to the right people and the right organisation to support them. We also have the advice service, but they tend to look more at the academic aspect of things, however they do also work on some wellbeing-related things.
H: What do you think are the biggest welfare issues for students right now?
L: During Arrivals Week at our Freshminster fair we asked students when they came in to write the things that they are most afraid of and most scared of at the beginning of their academic year.
Some of the things that did come up was financial stress, which is impacting their wellbeing, failing their classes and also general stress. Those were the three things that really came up again and again and again, so now we’re planning to see how we can make sure that students don’t feel that stress, that they don’t feel like they may fail. I’m trying to just encourage students and increase their confidence.
H: What plans or events does the Students Union have to improve student welfare?
L: The Union has a lot planned in terms of improving student wellbeing and welfare and I think one of the most exciting things is the introduction of student Wellbeing Wednesday, which is quite exciting because it’s going to be about making sure that students are coming in and are encouraged to do different activities and workshops and are involved in sports and societies. It’s on Wednesdays after 1pm because students won’t be in their classes. This is all lead by Gerald, our VP of Activities.
Something else that we’re also working on is making sure our services are culturally competent. So we’re having an organisation called Diverse Matters coming in to conduct an audit of all of our support services to make sure they are culturally competent.
I’m also working closely with Sally, the Head of Student Services and Residential Life within the University and we’re working on making sure that our staff members are confident in signposting, especially as personal tutors. There’s a lot going on and I’m quite looking forward to this year because we’re really focusing on student wellbeing and welfare.
Were making sure students are coming in and are encouraged to do different activities and workshops and are involved in sports and societies
H: What is one piece of advice you’d give to students right now?
L: My number one advice will always be to get involved. Join societies, join sports, get involved in your society and your course reps, engage with your lecturers and course leaders because that makes up a key aspect of your student welfare and your student life. It also tackles that sense of loneliness you may feel and you are able to find people that think alike to you.
I would always recommend getting involved – I can’t express how important it is. University really is a space where you’ll be making friends for life so to do that you’ve got to get involved.
If you’d like to learn more about the Students Union check out their website.
If you’d like to find out more about the University health services you can read our previous post or check out the University website.