What to expect from seeing a mental health adviser

Senior mental health adviser Kim Spain talks about mental health support from Student Disability Services Ratonga Hauātanga Tauira.

senior mental health adviser Kim Spain in front of a tree.
Help with managing study around wellbeing is at hand, says senior mental health adviser Kim Spain.

Kim Spain is a Senior Mental Health Adviser in Student Disability Services. A University of Auckland alumna with a masters in counselling, Kim has spent the past 15 years working in the field, with a focus on young people in schools and those with addictions.

“Mental illness is surprisingly common,” says Kim. “It doesn’t discriminate. Some people think that their mental health isn’t bad enough for them to deserve to get support while they study, but that’s not true – everyone deserves care. The University caters for every level of support. It’s just a matter of knowing how and where to access it.”

“Student Disability Services offers support for students with diagnosed mental health conditions. We see students regularly throughout their time at University and offer support around wellbeing and academic studies. We also advocate for them. Everything is completely confidential and not shared with academic staff or anyone else. The exception to this is if I’m worried about someone’s safety.

Students can either be referred to see a mental health adviser by academic staff; student academic and support advisers, a GP or other health practitioner or can self-refer and make an appointment.

Kim works with fellow mental health advisers Olivia Murton and Anne-Marie Keenan. You can book an appointment with any one of them.

“Sessions are tailored to each student’s unique needs. We’ll have a chat about how they, their studies and their mental health are going. From there, we’ll make a plan that highlights possible support options available. They’re then welcome to come back and see me fortnightly or whenever they’d like for as long as they’re studying. We can do whatever they find most helpful – a wellbeing check in, stress or time management, a review of assessments or other forms of support.”

One of the biggest challenges Kim sees students facing is perfectionism, which can act as a trigger for mental health problems. She sees “practising more self-kindness and mindfulness as a tonic”.