Bangor University will be leading the development of mental health provision through the medium of Welsh for students across Wales, thanks to a successful bid for funding from HEFCW – the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

A team of staff across the University came together with colleagues from partner institutions to develop an exciting portfolio of provision, which will be developed and launched over the next 10 months.

Maria Lorenzini, Director of Student Services at Bangor University explains: “We wanted to improve the accessibility of appropriate mental health support for all students in Wales for whom Welsh is their first and preferred language. Our multi-strand project will bring about a significant step forward in providing equivalency for Welsh speaking students.”

Kate Tindle, Head of Counselling at Bangor University explains: “We proposed three separate initiatives for this project – but each of the three strands of our proposal links to the other two, and each will enhance the efficacy of the others.”

The first task will be to create online mental health resources specifically tailored for use by any Welsh speaking student, in accessible and easy to understand Welsh.

Secondly, delivery of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills training for Welsh speaking students across Welsh Universities will be offered. This is an evidence-based model, tried and tested at Bangor University, for supporting perhaps the most vulnerable student groups: those who self-harm and/or experience suicidal ideation.

Last, but by no means least, Endaf Evans, one of the Welsh speaking counsellors at Bangor University will be forming an All-Wales Welsh Language Mental Health Practitioners and Therapists Network. Developing this network will support the long term sustainability of Welsh language mental health support for students.

Dr Lowri Hughes, Head of Policy and Development in Canolfan Bedwyr at Bangor stresses the importance of this work: “Under the Welsh Language Standards, universities have a statutory duty to allow students to use Welsh when accessing counselling or mental health support. Students’ rights in this regard has been emphasised by the Welsh Language Commissioner through the ‘Mae Gen i Hawl’ (I have a right) campaign. As has been highlighted by the Welsh Government, however, providing care through the medium of Welsh is much more than a matter of compliance. In the ‘More than Words’ strategy (2016), it is noted that: ‘Ensuring the safety, dignity and respect of Welsh speakers is at the heart of providing health and social services in Welsh’.”

The project proposal was supported by Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Dr. Ioan Matthews, the Coleg’s Chief Executive, said: “This is an incredibly important issue and an area where there is a severe shortage of support.”

The project has been fully supported by Undeb Bangor, Bangor University Students’ Union body. Lleucu Myrddin, the UMCB President (Welsh Students’ Union) say: “It’s great news that Bangor University has been successful with this bid for funding from HEFCW and will be leading the development of Welsh language mental health provision for students in Bangor and across Wales.

“UMCB and Undeb Bangor have been lobbying nationally for adequate mental health resources in the Welsh language over the last two years. It’s clear that digital services which are incredibly important to younger generations have been lagging behind through the medium of Welsh, and it’s very positive that part of this project will be to create online resources in Welsh.

“It is a matter of principle that no Welsh speakers should lose out to services simply because their first language is Welsh. This is an important step forward and we are excited to be working with the University on this project.”