A new peer mentoring programme for trans and non-binary students

Student holding a they-them pronoun badge

Today we’re talking about a new trans and non-binary student mentoring programme, run in partnership by the University of Bristol and The Peer Partnership, which will launch in October 2022. Aaron Grice from the University of Bristol and Sean Hourigan from The Peer Partnership, give us the low down.

Tell us about the programme – what is it and why is it needed?

Sean
Being a trans or non-binary student can be tough. Not everyone is accepting, and society is not always prepared for changes needed to integrate and recognise people in this community. This programme will support these students by matching them to trans and non-binary community volunteer mentors living locally who will help them navigate life as someone identifying as trans or non-binary.

Aaron
Here at the University of Bristol, there’s a large community of trans and non-binary students, and we want to make sure they can access the support and services they need. There’s a lot to learn from the trans and non-binary community in Bristol and the programme will help our students form support networks locally, while also highlighting support available at the University and in the city.

How did you get involved?

Aaron
I have been involved in peer support for many years – first as a student at here at Bristol and now in the work I do for the Student Inclusion team. I’ve seen first-hand how peer support empowers people.

Sean
The Peer Partnership follows the same model as a successful peer mentoring programme for people with HIV run by the Bristol-based charity Brigstowe.  We wanted to bring this model to the benefit of trans/non-binary students, recognising that the stigma they experience leads to high university drop-out rates.

How will the programme support trans and non-binary students?

Sean
Students will be able to apply for peer support at any point during their University experience. They will be matched to a mentor, who will also be trans or non-binary. The mentor will provide the student with an hour a week of their time to discuss and work through any challenges they may face.

Aaron
The programme will provide information about services available to trans and non-binary students. We hope this will improve their wellbeing and increasing their resilience. We also hope to increase their use and awareness of internal and external support services that can help them.

When will it start and how can students get involved? 

Sean
The project will go live in September (2022) – we’re currently recruiting and training mentors.

Aaron
Students will be able to request a mentor by completing a short form, and will be matched with a someone who is best placed to provide support. The Student Inclusion team is also working alongside the Wellbeing Team, who will refer any students they feel would benefit from a mentoring relationship.

More information will be available this autumn (2022) – in the meantime, if anyone is interested in getting involved, they can email student-peer-support@bristol.ac.uk.

Any other comments?

Aaron
From my own experience being a student at the University with many trans and non-binary friends, I think it would have been so beneficial to have the opportunity to make connections with people from the wider community. I’m excited to be helping provide this opportunity for our students now and to develop this programme alongside our trans and non-binary community members in Bristol.

  • Sean Hourigan – Sean Hourigan is the Development and Training Coordinator for The Peer Partnership.
  • Aaron Grice (they/them) is the Student Inclusion Officer (Peer Support) in the University’s Student Inclusion Team.
  • The Peer Partnership is an extension of the successful work of Brigstowe, an HIV charity that has been supporting people for over 25 years in Bristol.

Celebrating Pride in Computer Science

I’m Jack Bunyan, Equality and Diversity Officer and Computer Science Society (CSS) Officer in the Faculty of Engineering. My job is to make sure that people from all backgrounds are represented in both the Computer Science Society and the Faculty at large. This means making sure that events are inclusive, running social events for people to meet or promoting discussions about issues affecting Bristol students. As an EDI representative at the University, I am proud to represent all students and to help build an inclusive and welcoming community for all. (more…)

War in Ukraine: past, present and future

This blog post was written by Tom Tokovyi, a final year biochemistry student. Tom was brought up in Bila, Tserkva , Kviv region, Ukraine, and spoke at a recent event – War in Ukraine: past, present and future –  held at Bristol SU in March 2022. The aim of the event was to help us understand more about Ukraine, the current situation and how we can offer support.

“Perseverance – this is the first word that comes into my mind when I think about my home country.”

Tomas Tokovyi holding a microphone during his talk
Tom Tokovyi

It is hard to find a person nowadays who has not heard about the current situation in Ukraine. Nevertheless, not everyone knows about the deep-rooted history of the Ukrainian nation and the major events that led to the full-scale war with Russia. As a Ukrainian studying at Bristol, I felt a strong sense of duty to inform my friends and peers about the current situation at home, and share my knowledge of Ukrainian culture and history.

Together with my friends, I organised a large-scale event War in Ukraine: past, present and future which was attended by more than 250 students and staff. The event was divided into several parts which consisted of the talk – Past and present of Ukraine –  a discussion panel with professors about The future of Ukraine as well as a Q&A with the audience. (more…)

National Student Money Week – 21 to 25 February 2022

Does managing your money feel daunting? It doesn’t have to be if you develop skills and adopt easy ways to spend in a more sustainable way.

Plan your meals

Remember, yellow stickers are your friends!

Did you know….?

…that the University’s catering service also offers a food waste option where you can get your hands on quality, fresh food for low prices and do your bit to reduce food waste at the same time. We have joined ‘Too Good to Go’, an app that lets customers rescue unsold food at reduced cost and save it from going to waste. So far, this has helped us reduce our waste – saving 1092 meals from landfill and reduced our carbon emissions by 2.73 tonnes.

You can find a food swap pop-up at Senate House on 10 March too – as part of Food Waste Action Week.

Make better choices

Fashion

  • Buy less and buy better – move away from fast-fashion and invest in good quality sustainable brands that will last longer.
  • Read student Marvin Karenzi’s post about what you can do to fight fast fashion.
  • Head to Park Street for charity shops and reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe. Have a look at a Guide to Vintage Shopping in Bristol by Beyond Retro.
  • Move away from false-economy. Buying a cheap white t-shirt a dozen times is not as cost effective as spending a little more on a quality t-shire that lasts a long time.

Make a change

Travel

What else could you do?

We’re sure you have other ideas so why join the discussion about sustainable spending on social media using #nsmw22.

Useful info

If you run into difficulties you may want to read our money saving tips. If you’re experiencing financial hardship we have some emergency funding options that may be able to help.   Find out more about keeping on top of your finances and financial wellbeing.  You can also check out these useful websites: Moneyhelper  and MoneySavingExpert’s tips for students.

Portrait image of Professor Sharon Collard
Professor Sharon Collard, Personal Finance Research Centre

Professor Sharon Collard, Chair in Personal Finance from our Personal Finance Research Centre, said: “Research shows people who feel on top of their finances are much more likely to be satisfied with life, so it really does pay in more ways than one to look after your budget. Financial wellbeing isn’t just about how much money you have, but how you manage it daily, plan for the future, and create some contingency for the unexpected.  

“Although it may be tempting to put money issues to the back of your mind, tackling them proactively and seeking out advice will help ease the worry and put you back in control. With the rising cost of living, affecting food, energy and fuel prices in particular, it’s even more important to be budget-savvy, reaching out for guidance and support when needed.”

Remember if you have any funding enquiries or money worries the Student Funding Office is here to help. You can email us at student-funding@bristol.ac.uk or call Student Services on 0117 428 3000 to book an appointment with a Student Funding Adviser.

Looking after yourself and each other 

This is a message of support from Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Student Experience, in response to news of a student death [6 May 2021]

University life can be full of challenges and I know the summer term can often be a stressful time as end of year exams and assessments loom large, and plans start being made for the summer months and beyond.  Of course, this year has been like none other and a real challenge for you all in so many different waysThat’s why it is so important to take time to look after your own wellbeing and to keep an eye out for friends if you can.  (more…)

Reflecting on a year during COVID for World Art Day 2021

In celebration of  World Art Day on 15 April 2021. ResiLife is launching a student competition for all budding artists, photographers and creators. The subject for all entries is to reflect “A year at UOB during COVID-19”.

 

Over the past year, students at the University of Bristol have shown huge resilience through the many different challenges that no one could have anticipated. We would like to celebrate World Art Day by reflecting on 2020 through a student’s eyes, using art to express the resilience shown and many challenges overcome. Thinking about your time here at Bristol this year, we would like your help to capture this and create something spectacular that will last for many years to come. (more…)

Joint University of Bristol and Bristol Students’ Union statement in response to murder of Sarah Everard (March 2021)

Dear student

The sad and shocking news of the death of Sarah Everard  (March 2021) highlights the vital importance of the safety and wellbeing of women and people of historically oppressed genders. The University of Bristol and Bristol Students’ Union are tackling gender-based harassment and violence together, and will continue this critical work to ensure all students feel as safe as possible wherever they are, both on and around campus.

Public sexual harassment and sexual violence at UK universities and across our society is a serious issue. We have a robust and confidential system in place to help students report incidents and to support anyone impacted by these recent events.

(more…)

Welcome to the weekend

It’s the start of another weekend. Time to relax, take some time out and recharge your batteries

Many of you may be coming out of self-isolation over the weekend; some of you may still be self-isolating. We hope you’re keeping safe and well.

If you are coming out of self-isolation, do enjoy your renewed freedom but don’t be tempted to let loose, and thanks for continuing to follow the guidelines and respect others.

(more…)

Mentally Healthy Universities: Shifting culture through community and conversation

What does it mean to be mentally healthy? What are the early triggers and warning signs of stress and anxiety? How can we support ourselves and each other as we navigate some of life’s toughest challenges?

These are some of the questions that students and staff at the University of Bristol are being encouraged to explore with the expert guidance of trained mental health specialists from the leading UK charity, Mind.

Bristol is one of six universities taking part in a two-year pilot programme of workshops and courses that take a proactive approach to transforming the way in which mental health is understood, talked about and responded to in student communities and staff spaces.

The programme – Mentally Healthy Universities – has been developed in response to growing evidence about the mental health challenges faced by the UK’s higher education sector. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of students who disclosed a mental health condition almost doubled between 2012 and 2015 to nearly 45,000.

The Mind programme of courses, designed with the input of students from Leeds and Oxford University where the initiative began, seek to open up the conversation around mental health in such a way that encourages both students and staff to empower themselves and each other to seek support.

Claire Slater, Deputy Director of Student Services at the University of Bristol, said: “We are really pleased to be taking the lead in tackling this issue in a proactive way. The conversation around mental health is already underway but more does need to be done as unfortunately, stigmatisation and misunderstanding remains a barrier.

“To work with renowned specialists like Mind is a significant step towards eroding those barriers and enhancing the package of support that Bristol offers to students and staff.”

 

Help yourself, help others

Mental health trainers from Mind have already started to deliver three courses under the programme, which will initially run until April 2020. The courses are aimed at students in their first and final years, two of the primary crunch points when the transition into university and away from home, and then out of university and into the workplace, is known to impact mental health.

As well as equipping students with greater knowledge about what constitutes mental health and how to manage their state of mind, the courses are an opportunity for students to share their thoughts, concerns and experiences with each other, and with trained specialists.

Charlotte Randomly, Mentally Healthy Universities Project Coordinator for Bristol Mind, said: “The programme is part of a puzzle that universities like Bristol are trying to figure out by adopting a practical approach to developing mental health awareness as part of a wider cultural shift.”

“We know that mental health is a personal issue, in that it’s felt at the individual level. But we also know that it’s a social concern – the challenges that we face shape and are shaped by the contributions that society makes to our mental health. That’s why with these courses, our focus has been to shift the conversation towards a more community-centred approach.

Student involvement has been key to the whole process of designing and delivering the programme. Those who participate will also be involved in evaluating the pilot later this year. Their feedback will shape how Mind, Bristol and other partners evolve the course.

Champions of collective wellbeing

Running in tandem with the Mind programme is Bristol’s internal drive to empower staff role models within their workspaces. Staff with lived experiences of mental health are being encouraged to apply their insights as Mental Health Champions, facilitating conversations and events aimed at supporting their colleagues.

“We all have a role to play in this conversation,” adds Claire. “This is an opportunity for all of us, staff and students, to make a valuable contribution to the ongoing effort to shift perceptions of mental health and to develop a really strong and supportive community culture.”

Investing in the future

The Mind programme of workshops, coupled with the Mental Health Champions initiative, are part of the University’s ongoing commitment to supporting the mental health of its entire community. Plans are also in development to create more online resources for students, while for staff, the Careers Service is hosting a series of Workplace Wellbeing courses similar to those offered to students.

The overarching student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy further helps to capture and expand the work already underway, ensuring that mental health awareness and support remains a priority.

Building strong communities

Our work to improve the sense of community for our students here at Bristol has started, and initiatives like the Bristol SU Living Room are helping students connect with one another. However, our students have told us that there is still more to be done.  

Over the next two years, we plan to build on our strong platform of student-centred services by aligning many of the routes to support together under one roof. Given the centrality of Senate House, and the ongoing refurbishments that have already seen the building transformed into an easily accessible and all-inclusive hub for student activity, the plan is to bring even more services into the building. 

Already the home of the Study Centre, the largest Bristol SU Living Room, the PGR hub (for postgraduate research students) and a student café, Senate House is steadily undergoing further changes as it becomes the centre of Campus Heart.    

As well as revamping the ground floor to include a one-stop information point for all students, we hope this will become a fully integrated space that offers students access to all they need; from help and advice about fees and funding to a suite of wellbeing services. There will also be additional SU space for students to use for work or relaxation. 

Our Student Wellbeing Service and Residential Life teams are already expanding, with positive results that have seen a reduction in waiting times for counselling support and a more seamless approach to early interventions, in addition to professional support available round the clock, every day of the year.  We’re building on this success to ensure that our students can continue to access the high quality support they need. This includes working in partnership with Bristol Students’ Union, Sports Exercise and Health and academic colleagues to provide a range of activities to help build strong communities across our university.  

Find out more as we chat to Ros Elliott, Head of Student Residential Life.

Further information about what we’re doing to transform our campus including all the latest developments at Senate House, can be seen on our latest film (January 2020).  

This case study is part of a series of stories sharing findings and student views from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Surveys 2018 and 2019. It’s a chance for us to share what we have done in response to what students have told us and to share what we’re planning to do. See our webpage for further information