How LMA supports students with digital health
LMA is a media, performing arts and music specialist institution. The Academy takes a student-first approach, encouraging collaboration and support as key elements of the student experience.
LMA launched its partnership with ORCHA in 2019, keen to help students and staff take control of their physical and mental wellbeing. The LMA Health App Library provides instant access to digital support tools which can be used as and when suits the individual, which is very helpful to students with busy schedules.
Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and LMA was forced to suspend in-person studies. The highly practical nature of performing arts studies meant that continuing with studies was challenging, and, although LMA switched to remote learning and student services, for many students it was difficult to maintain the level of learning which took place prior.
The Student Services team at LMA have found the apps included in the Library useful not only to students with preexisting mental and physical health diagnoses, but also to students who have developed anxieties during the isolation periods of the last two years.
The Student Services team used the Library and resources from ORCHA throughout lockdown to consistently communicate with students about the safe digital health solutions available to them. The team continues to offer these resources to students, based on which time periods and touchpoints the students are likely to require support for.
Hannah, from the Student Services team at LMA, has found that mental health apps in particular are incredibly helpful resources as the NHS struggles to keep up with the growing mental health challenges and the waiting lists for traditional services continue to grow.
“Waiting lists for NHS counselling and other services were 26 weeks before lockdown, now you’re talking over a year and so, obviously, having these apps to hand to be able to recommend to our students to fill that gap really helps – some students didn’t need to access the support that their doctors were referring them to because they’re tapped into these apps and they implement these exercises daily and use the strategies to help them through difficult times.”
Response to the Library by students and professionals has been very positive. To date, there have been over 2,500 sessions and over 5,000 page views. The most common route to accessing the site is directly, as LMA is very proactive in promoting the Library, particularly during the first “freshers” weeks and exam season. There are also many students accessing the Library via links on the LMA website and via emails sent to them.
In the main, the apps recommended by Pros at LMA are mental health and anxiety support apps. The team have also found healthy living and nutrition apps useful for boosting their students’ overall health. A recent development has been the growing use of apps for diabetic students to access safe information and guidance. LMA has also found a lot of use for apps for eating disorder management and prevention, as, due to the nature of performing arts careers and institutes, some students may be at a higher risk of issues surrounding body image.
The Student Services team, in working with such a diverse group of students, find that by having the additional resource available to them via the ORCHA Library, they can support both the students who are more forthcoming when they are struggling, and those who are not. Through the recommendation functionality included in the ORCHA Pro account, the team can send accredited health apps safely and directly to students, but by also presenting it as a self-help option which students can access at any time, the team can support students without their having to request help.
Since introducing the ORCHA Library, the Student Services team have noticed a decline in students needing face-to-face appointments.
“All students are different and not one size fits all. So some students like to come and talk about their feelings face-to-face, but some students bottle it all up and they like to deal with it themselves. Now, the Library is a service they can tap into absolutely anywhere across the world; we know that we’re covering all bases and that’s reassuring to us. Our students are covered and if they do want that support but don’t want to speak to us, it’s just there, on their phones – basically everyone has a phone in their hands all the time, so they can just have the support they need and we know that everyone’s covered.”
Quote from Hannah
Caitlin, a recent graduate of LMA, found the apps particularly useful, both during lockdown and following it. As a musical theatre student, Caitlin was both doing a very intensive course with a lot of in-person hours and also working a full-time job outside of her studies. Describing herself as someone who struggles with anxiety, and “jumps to conclusions” or “gets in her own head about things when it’s not as bad as it seems”, she found an anxiety management app very helpful for remembering to take time out for herself and complete regular breathing exercises. She found the app particularly helpful during the lockdown periods for privately expressing her feelings, whilst being able to bear in mind that many other people used the app and struggled with similar circumstances.
Although Caitlin felt very much able to rely on the Student Service team’s support, the addition of the apps “changed the whole experience”. Caitlin, in coming towards the end of her studies and straight into a career as lead vocalist for a production company, reflected on times in her studies when she lost motivation, or struggled to manage her stress.
“I felt like I had been out of it for a while. I’d kind of lost a lot of motivation to get back into my studies. And then obviously, I was going back to work and I felt really overwhelmed when I started not being able to attend classes. I was just stressing myself out with everything. So having all this support helped me get back on track and things because I knew it was important and I really wanted to get my degree but also loved my work so I just had to find a healthy balance between the two, but without support from everyone I probably wouldn’t have got back on track the way I am now.”
Quote from Caitlin
Caitlin found that the combined approach worked very well for her, as although she requested support through the Student Services team, it was sometimes a little embarrassing or anxiety-inducing to go through official channels, and so it was beneficial to have access to other support when she didn’t want to feel as though she was bothering anyone.
The Student Services team have found that:
“Students are more forthcoming using apps, rather than looking at a web page or downloading and reading through an application form – it’s very current and it helps that we can recommend it to students.”
Caitlin reiterated this, stating that
“Technology makes life so much easier. As for me, I’ve got no patience to sit and read through things without having it so it’s quick and easy to access and just encourages you to use it more.”
When asked what she would say to other students looking to access digital mental or physical health support, Caitlin said
“I would definitely say get yourself on these apps because they really help. I would just say tap into them because they’re really useful and you don’t realise – I think it was the same with me, I felt this probably won’t help with anything. And then you download it and then you find yourself using it because simple things just change everything.”
Quote from Caitlin