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Welsh College Boosting Mental Health of Staff and Students

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The mental health and safety of students and staff has been the top priority for Coleg Cambria in lockdown.

The college’s successful Active Cambria programme has been supporting hundreds of learners and employees across north east Wales throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with online exercise and mindfulness sessions.

From Pilates, yoga and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts to virtual quizzes, resilience webinars and social events, they have been in regular communication and urged attendees to practice self-care, including regular exercise, an improved diet, and more sleep.

Donna Welsh, coordinator of the Active Cambria programme, said keeping our minds and bodies busy has been vital in lockdown.

“It is extremely important we focus on helping people understand that, now more than ever,” said Donna.

“We can learn a lot from this pandemic and pass that down to the next generation, the value we place on looking after ourselves, living a full life and ensuring people are resilient and can handle whatever the world throws at them.

“I found it hard at times but with my coping strategies for when life gets me down – running, eating healthily, cutting down on alcohol and talking to others – I became motivated again.”

She added:

“Coleg Cambria has also introduced a new communication tool for staff – Happeo – and Active Cambria uses that to encourage staff to take part in events and signposting to organisations that can help if they need further guidance and advice on their health and wellbeing.

“And our trusted leaders have been training hard to become Mental Health, This Girl Can and inclusive ambassadors in partnership with AoC (Association of Colleges Sport), as well as delivering fitness lessons to our Independent Living Skills (ILS) students and athletics training for children.

“We are doing all we can to be there for our students, staff and the community, and would like to thank everyone who has got involved and supported us.”

A new survey from YouGov revealed more than half of people in North Wales have experienced a deterioration in their mental health since the Coronavirus took hold in the UK last Spring.

Those questioned who had managed to stay positive said a proactive approach made a difference, including exercise (35%), sticking to a routine (32%), a healthy diet (12%) and mindfulness, notably yoga and meditation (8%).

Alun Thomas, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, advises that self-care and keeping communication channels open with friends and family will be crucial in the weeks ahead.

Our advice is to stay connected to others as much as you can within the guidelines, look after your physical health, and reach out and support others who you think may be in need,” he said.

Ben Williams, a personal trainer from Wrexham, added:

“When everyone is at home in lockdown it can be difficult to stay in good spirits. By dedicating a little bit of time for yourself to exercise, you can have a massive impact on the rest of your day – or week – knowing that you are looking after your health and keeping active.”

Advice and support on how to look after your mental wellbeing can be found here: www.phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/how-are-you-doing