On the latest episode of PropCast, Darren Gardner and Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo explained how Nido Student is helping to support its residents and solve some of the problems they are facing through its mental health program.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has been a trying time for everyone but for students of today, it has been especially challenging. Blackstock Consulting’s Andrew Teacher spoke to Darren Gardner, chief operating officer of Nido Student and Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo, a Chartered Psychologist, about how their recent partnership has woven wellbeing into the PBSA operator’s offering for students.
This is crucial, because mental health is just as varied and complex as physical health. Dr Quinn-Cirillo notes that for most people, university can be where you first experience genuine independence, and this brings with it new and unfamiliar responsibilities. The mental health and wellbeing support Nido Student provides is built around the principle; that different individuals have different needs.
With over 20 student residences across Europe, bringing in a qualified Psychologist as a mental health and wellbeing spokesperson was an essential step to demonstrating meaningful support for residents.
“You’ve got to learn how to plan your study timetable, how to manage your finances, how to manage your emotions and relationships,” Dr Quinn-Cirillo explains. “So those are all things that we need to factor in.”
No two students are the same. It is more common, says Gardner, for parents from the global East to expect financial returns from their children’s education. “You have to understand these pressures so that you can help those students,” he adds.
Helping students communicate their needs is vital to providing bespoke support, so Nido has developed a ‘mental health toolkit’ which is available to all residents throughout their time at Nido. This is composed of live talks on the issues students themselves say are most pressing as well as bite-size support, ranging from short videos to infographics, because different students will respond better to different kinds of media.
Finally, students’ young ages mean their prefrontal cortex is still developing. Over the course of their studies, according to Quinn-Cirillo, students will be changing in terms of how they think and respond: “Going home, you might be a very different person than when you left home the term before.” Nido Student recognised that its support had to be tailor-made to be effective.
The need for communication even bears on the structure of the buildings themselves. Students are more likely to communicate when they feel like a community, so shared spaces are provided as standard. It was “lovely,” says Quinn-Cirillo, to see students gathering in shared spaces to watch the live talks together. It was evidence that self-care really can become a normal part of everyday life when the right services are available.
Gardner thinks that the kind of mental health and wellbeing services Nido Student pioneers today will soon become the norm in real estate. Being able to offer mental health provision is a “differentiator” – it makes a significant enough difference to people’s lives that it will sway who they choose to rent with. So it isn’t just customers who are seeing the benefits. “The payback is there: in customer satisfaction, recommendations, people renewing their contracts,” Gardner explains. “All of those things ultimately lower your costs.”
Gardner’s point is that anyone who thinks mental health provision is a waste of money is making a categorical mistake: failure to cater to residents’ mental health is simply a failure to meet your customers’ needs. And it’s common sense that meeting your customers’ needs is good business practice: “Doing the right thing for the customers you look after is something investors are coming round to.”
Chief Operating Officer
Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo