PROJECT:TALK Bristol – connecting our community in the COVID-19 pandemic

PROJECT:TALK Bristol have a mission to change the way Bristol views mental health by pioneering mental fitness. Below, members of the team tell their story of setting up PROJECT:TALK and their work to support students at Bristol during the pandemic.

PROJECT:TALK logo and committee members

George, PROJECT:TALK CIC’s co-founder and Bristol Society’s current co-president, explains how it all started

We established PROJECT:TALK as a Community Interest Company in March 2020. We set out to make it something everyone could connect with, beyond those in need of support.

Typically, mental health is only looked at in the context of mental illness. Only when things have begun to get on top of us do we start to navigate the challenges we face. At this point of need, things often seem overwhelming and a lack of resources only adds to the challenge. This shouldn’t be the case. We all experience mental health and we should all be empowered, inspired, equipped, and supported to own it.

Our work is organised into three main projects:

  • TOOLS TO:TALK takes charge of our training and peer support scheme.
  • WALK TO:TALK pioneers mental fitness through events and fundraising.
  • TIME TO:TALK takes care of our online presence and blog, which serves as a space for communities to share their experiences and ideas.
College green event
Our WALK TO:TALK event on College Green in May 2019

The very first PROJECT:TALK Society was formed in Bristol in September 2020!

Wiktoria, PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society’s newest committee member as Social Secretary explains the importance of our work in Bristol

The University of Bristol forms a crucial support network for over 27,000 students. Whilst in a key transition period in their lives, the pandemic has put all students’ mental fitness to the test. An uncertain and isolated world where lectures are online, bars are shut, and parties are forbidden has forced many to navigate mental fitness challenges like never before.

Sam, developer of our Peer Support Scheme, speaks of support during the pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we created the PROJECT:TALK Peer Support Scheme, a 1:1 supportive calling service, run by students for students. We have a team of 15 trained student volunteers, who have been providing free and confidential support for fellow peers since November.

“Volunteering with PROJECT:TALK has provided me with an outlet to have a positive impact on the wellbeing of my fellow students, at a time when it has been so easy to feel helpless.” – Peer Support Scheme volunteer.

We are now working in partnership with Queen Mary University London to set up a Peer Support Scheme for their students.

How can I access support?

If you’d like to access our range of mental fitness support in Bristol, visit our website. Our amazing volunteers are here to support you – the training they receive, their experience and similar position in life allows them to connect with our callers. We recognise that sometimes it’s hard to ask for help but students find great value in our support service.

“The scheme provided me with someone who understood my problems, in a relaxed, conversational environment” – Rob, a student who’s used our Peer Support Scheme

We’ve partnered with multiple peer support groups to form a central hub for peer led support. Every Saturday, we hold a mental fitness workout in collaboration with Talk Club Bristol Uni. We’ve also welcomed the UoB Grief, Terminal and Life Threatening Illness support group and male-identifying Talk Club group on board.

Now, more than ever, we really encourage you to reach out to those around you. Even just a simple ‘Hello, how’s your day been?” will make a huge difference!

Dog in photo frame
Our biggest fan

What else is PROJECT:TALK Bristol doing to support mental fitness at Uni?

We’ve got some really exciting stuff coming up:

  • As it’s currently difficult to travel, we’d like to take you on a cultural journey with food and drink. Our committee are working hard to organise online events with chefs from some our favorite Bristol bars and restaurants (let us know your favorites!).
  • Mental Fitness Yoga – keeping our minds and bodies active when it’s hard to get out.
  • We’re working with the Grief, life threatening and terminal illness support group to deliver therapeutic art sessions to students experiencing grief.

How can I get involved?

Join our society – you’ll get an array of perks, our monthly newsletter and even the opportunity to pioneer your own initiative! With both free and premium membership options, we want to welcome everyone into our supportive community.

Sophie, PROJECT:TALK Bristol’s marketing lead, tells us what it’s like to be part of the team

Even though I have not been a part of the community very long, I can already tell it’s the most supportive group I have seen. Not only do we want to raise awareness about mental fitness, but we also want to provide our members with activities during this hard time. We are trying to reach out and contact as many students as possible.

Where can I find out more?

Visit our website and join the University of Bristol Society. Find us on Facebook and Instagram, @projecttalkbristol.

The path to self-acceptance, resilience and happiness

This blog was written by University of Bristol Student Counsellor, Natalie Read. Natalie has been a counsellor for 14 years, working both at the University and in private practice. She’s worked with students and non-students of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities, all with different reasons for seeking support.

The importance of self-acceptance, resilience and happiness

We all strive for happiness but aren’t always successful in achieving this. If we’ve experienced hurt, rejection, failure and other similarly painful situations, we may naturally try to avoid these in future. This can lead to strategies such as overworking, pleasing others, perfectionism and other unhelpful coping strategies. Whilst well intended, these strategies are ineffective in the long-run and come with unhelpful side effects. Trying to be somebody we’re not or trying to control life is like trying to be superhuman.

Instead, working towards self-acceptance and acknowledging your humanness offers a happier and healthier path with greater odds of success. Self-acceptance is learning to understand yourself, your feelings and accepting that every human being has strengths and areas of development. You’re more likely to practice self-care, have self-compassion, give yourself opportunities for success and radiate a confidence which is magnetic to others. This helps you feel more optimistic about the future, improve relationships and, build resilience to overcome difficulties.

Student walking and smiling

My top five tips for achieving self-acceptance, resilience and happiness:

  • Go with the flow of life – like the weather, life naturally has ups and downs. Judging yourself or avoiding what you’re facing adds layers of difficulty on top. By acknowledging challenges are part of life and happen to everyone, you give yourself less of a hard time and navigate them more easily.
  • Build self-reflection – noticing your levels of energy, stress, productivity and happiness can help you respond rather than react to situations and make happier choices.
  • Understand feelings come and go – we interrupt this process with good intentions i.e. trying not to feel them or by judging them – what’s wrong with me, how long will this last? Acknowledging that feelings are a natural part of being human and finding an outlet for them can help.
  • Develop self-compassion – work on self-acceptance, a kinder inner voice and measure yourself by your effort and intention rather than the outcome.
  • Build resilience – identify any hidden blessings behind challenges- how you developed or strengthened something in yourself, moved onto a new path or attracted new people into your life. This helps you realise you are stronger than you think and prepare for what could help next time.

Student talking at the Harbourside

My advice for students who may be struggling during these uncertain times

Know that you are not alone at finding things difficult – this is a common misconception that comes up in counselling. Despite appearances, no human being is immune to facing struggles or difficult emotions. Opening up to someone you trust can help you to feel not alone and also helps them by giving them permission to do the same. Alternatively seek support from Wellbeing Access who will direct you to the most appropriate person who can help.

Being Human – the path to self-acceptance, resilience and happiness by Natalie Read is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and all major retailer websites.

Help with homesickness

We asked our Instagram followers whether they had found themselves feeling homesick or lonely over the past few months; unfortunately a large number of you said you had felt this way.

When asked what you missed the most answers ranged from the expected i.e. parents, friends, significant others, pets, travelling etc. Some of you missed more specific home comforts such as visiting theatres in Budapest, Scottish water and Melomakarona (Greek Christmas honey cookies).

Understandably we can’t bring all of your pets to campus as much as we may like to, but we do have some suggestions that may help make lockdown a little easier to bear.

For those of you missing the gym

Bristol is home to many hills, not just the steep and tiring Park Street, but actual hills complete with  greenery, dog walkers and views over the city. So for those of you who are urban explorers, why not take in some fresh air and go on a walk or a run up Brandon Hill or Troopers Hill or walk up to the BT Tower on Purdown.

The University Sport, Exercise and Health Division has recently launched Active Online, a new timetable offering instructor-led online classes, delivered live via the University of Bristol Sport app. This is perfect for those of you who are self-isolating, or don’t fancy braving the elements. The classes are free for students to attend, are equipment-free and suitable for all abilities. No advanced booking is required, simply open the app at the start-time of your chosen session.

For those of you missing loved ones and friends

Technology hasn’t advanced enough for us be able to hug through a screen, however just seeing the faces of those you love can be enough to boost your mood. FaceTime, WhatsApp video, Facebook video, Google hangouts and Zoom are all free to use and are a great way to keep in touch.

Students are also encouraged to take advantage of buddy systems being offered. The Wellbeing Network has an online form for those who are looking to find a buddy, and Bristol Doctoral College has created PGR circles to give students the change to meet other PGRS outside of their school/research group.

For those of you missing travelling

Books can be a great form of escapism, they give you a chance to imagine and explore new places like Westeros, Middle Earth and Narnia; learn more about your surroundings in books like Weird Bristol or The Women Who Built Bristol 1184-2018; or read to simply pass the time away. Why not visit the University Library webpages and see what is on offer.

For those of you who miss more conventional travel and can’t wait to get back on a plane, there are virtual walking tours available on Google Maps of beautiful cities like Havana, Cuba and Split, Croatia. You can also explore the Great Barrier Reef with friend of the University, Sir David Attenborough; dive with dolphins and Manta Rays with BBC Earth; or unleash your inner archaeologist/Egyptologist by exploring the Tomb of Queen Meresankh III with the help of the Egyptian Tourist Board.

For more virtual tour suggestions, the following links have a range locations that are worth looking at, saving you the cost of  plane tickets and potential mosquito bites!

14 Virtual Travel Tours You Need To Experience – Elle.com

Armchair Travel Experiences That Let You Explore the World From Your Living Room – Thrillist.com

Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch – Travelandleisure.com

For those of you who would like some coping/distraction techniques

Many people in our community kindly shared their tips for how they are managing the feelings of homesickness and/or loneliness during this time. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Cooking favourite foods/food from home
  • Practising Transcendental Meditation
  • Talking with family
  • Listening to music
  • Watching movies with flatmates
  • Initiating calls online
  • Netflix watch parties
  • Keeping as busy as possible
  • Playing chess online
  • Online workouts with friends

For additional resources and wellbeing support

There is also support available outside the University if this is something that may be of help to you

  • Mind: Coronavirus and your wellbeing
    • Bristol Mind are also offering courses on mental health for undergraduate students as part of Mind’s Mentally Healthy Universities Programme. (Please note: you will need a valid student number and UoB email address to register).
  • Off The Record: being resilient through the Coronavirus disruption.
  • Free Headspace Mindfulness: weathering the storm.
  • BBC article: how to protect your mental health.
  • WHO: mental health and psychosocial considerations during Covid-19.
  • NHS: guidance on relieving stress.

A Mental Marathon

This post was written by the Founder and Director of PROJECT:TALK CIC, George Cole. George is also a fourth year medical student at University of Bristol. 

Right, stop what you’re doing. Now, get up and run. No, don’t complain, just do it! You haven’t got a choice. Keep running until you’re told to stop.

Oh, and whilst you’re running, make sure you don’t let anything slip, ok? What do you mean you can’t carry on doing your day job as effectively as usual! Find a way! Pathetic.

If this seems a bit of an obscure and unpleasant situation to you, then you’re not alone. You could think of the COVID-19 pandemic a little like this – being plunged into uncertainty, no choice in the matter, completely unprepared and unfamiliar. A mental marathon.

The undeniable truth is that this virus isn’t only having an impact on the physical health of our community; we are all being pushed to the very limits of our mental fitness, too. Not only that, but we’re simultaneously expecting ourselves to be able to operate as normal, carry on with our lives and not feel overwhelmed at all. But perhaps that’s still not enough? We love a challenge, don’t we?! So, we’re also expecting ourselves to study complex degrees, immerse ourselves in University life and achieve highly.

Now, let’s go back to the marathon… we all have different levels of fitness at the start. Whilst physical fitness is determined by things like our age, activity levels and lifestyle choices, our mental fitness varies depending on things like our past experiences, environment and resources. However, you’ll probably find that even the fittest of athletes in our hypothetical marathon gets tired, gets a stitch and reaches their limit eventually.

If we want our human subjects to travel further and faster, we could add some supporters on the sideline. Some with bottles of water, some with high-carb energy bars and some giving words of support. We’d expect our subjects to take the bottle of water and food with no shame, wouldn’t we?

So, in this mental fitness marathon, don’t be ashamed to reach out, take the bottle of water and be each other’s supporter on the sideline.

If you need to reach out for a bottle of water to help you with your marathon, it’s really easy…

PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society are offering friendly support calls, from established University of Bristol students, to fellow peers in need of a chat at such a challenging time.

So, if you’d like water (in the form of a relaxed chat or some advice from our trained peer support team) we’d love to hear from you. Just fill out our short form and one of the team will be in touch very soon!

You can also access water from the University’s wellbeing service through this quick form.

Reach for the bottle of water!

To find out more about PROJECT:TALK and help change the way we view mental health through pioneering mental fitness at the University of Bristol, you can visit our website.

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram or drop us an email at info@projecttalk.org.uk.

The weekend is here!

Wow, what a week! We hope that you’re all coping well during the current national lockdown – remember to look after yourselves and each other, and check in on your friends, family and loved ones.  

Just because we’re in lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!  

Here are some ideas for this weekend: 

Bristol Harbourside in autumn

Go for an autumnal walk with your housemates, Living Circle or one person from another household

There are so many great spots around Bristol for a (chilly) walk; Harbourside, The Downs, Ashton Court Estate…we could go on forever. Please remember to social distance if you are meeting with one person from another household.

Man on phone

Video call someone who you know needs a friend right now

Do you have any mates who live alone or know are not looking forward to the lockdown? Why not give them a call this weekend to check in? 

Set up a shared Spotify playlist and sync with your friends

Who doesn’t love dancing in their kitchen? Exactly! Get a great playlist sorted, share with your friends and hit play at the same time. You could give them a video call too and pretend you’re in your favourite club in Bristol. Motion not open? No problem! 

Have a sort-out

OK, this may sound boring but it’s good to do from time to time. There has got to be some old clothes you never wear or a drawer full of old stuff you don’t need. If you’re feeling super productive this weekend, have a sort through and get a bag of donations ready for when charity shops open up again. 

Sleeping cat

And most importantly…chill out!

If some or none of the above are your thing, just take some time to rest and chill this weekend. Whatever works for you. If that’s playing video games (we have some gamers in the Student Comms team too), binge-watching your favourite series, baking, reading or anything else, just do it! 

Weekend and future events

University and Bristol SU virtual events for the weekend, next week and beyond are listed on our website. Our Resilife Team also have lots of events listed on their Facebook page.

Here are a few of our upcoming event highlights: 

  • On Wednesday, you can Celebrate Diwali with the Bristol Hindu Society.  
  • Next week, Bristol COVID-19 experts will be answering questions on the virus. The event will be chaired by Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire and everyone is welcome to attend virtually and submit a question beforehand. Learn more about it here.
  • Join the Multifaith Chaplaincy for their annual Faith Crawl on Wednesday.
  • We’ve teamed up with Mind, the leading mental health charity, to pilot their new Mentally Healthy Universities programme. View the events here.

We hope you all have great weekends 😊 

Your Student Comms team x  

Dealing with grief, life-threatening illnesses, and everything and anything in-between… (now more important than ever)

This post was written for the University community by one of our students

Dear staff members and students,

These past months have been a challenge for us all – everything grounding to a halt during ‘lockdown’, disruptions to university teach, working and studying from home, and new difficulties such as quarantine. A lot of staff members and students will have had to deal with isolation from loved ones, illness in the family, and bereavement.

Facing grief and illness, or the anxiety of the possibility, has perhaps never been more widespread. Covid-19 has brought home hard truths and moved to centre stage the possibility of losing someone or getting ill. Dealing with illness and grief can be life-changing and the current restrictions add additional difficulties.

For our staff members and students to feel more supported through these challenging times and beyond, we need to encourage discussions about grief and illness and normalise the topic within our university. That does not mean only focusing on doom and gloom, but rather speaking openly about mechanisms to deal with these challenges and where to go to access support, raising awareness among the student and staff community.

Most students will deal with some sort of loss or potential loss during their university degree, whether that is a close family member, or a distant friend or relative. Staff members will most likely come across students who are struggling with a family member or relative who is ill, or grieving the loss of someone they love. Staff members and colleagues will also experience similar challenging life situations. What is the best thing to do? Below are some tips for how you can help others in this situation, or help yourself:

  • Actively listen: Listen attentively when the situation arises, concentrate, understand and respond to what is being said.
  • Check-in regularly: Drop the student/ staff member an email when you can to check in to see how they are doing.
  • Offer advice or reassurance: It might be helpful to offer them gentle advice, which could be anything from “look after yourself”, “surround yourself with friends”, “make sure you are looking after your wellbeing”, “studies can wait”, “take some time out”.
  • Offer help (but first ask them how they want to be supported): You could help them with extending deadlines for pieces of work, contacting staff members, referring them to or informing them about student or staff wellbeing and counselling, referring them to other help resources on the SU website, or sign-posting to external support services.
  • Engage in self-disclosure: this is if relevant, helpful or possible from your perspective.
  • Watch for warning signs of depression: Grief and/or dealing with illness can lead to mental struggles. Keep an eye out for concerning behaviour, like inability to function in everyday life or enjoy life, obsession with death, bitterness/anger/guilt, withdrawing behaviour, or talking openly about dying and suicide. If you are concerned speak to them and help them help by referring them to student wellbeing who can offer support and access to services including counselling.

Depending on your capacity to deal with this, please seek help and advice from others where needed.

Resources:

If you feel that your mental health is at breaking point, you can speak to the Bristol Mental Health Crisis Team.

The Samaritans: When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

University services:

  • Student Wellbeing and Student Counselling website
  • The SU Wellbeing Network – societies like Nightline and Peace of Mind (amongst others) are listed on here, with links that will take you to their webpages.
  • Internal support groups – check the SU Wellbeing Network site for the internal support groups that are running this year. Support groups appear throughout the year, so keep checking if there is not one that suits you. Also, feel free to reach out to the SU Wellbeing Network if a support group does not exist, but you think it would be useful to create one specific to your needs.
  • Wellbeing Advisors in your department
  • Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing webpages
  • Information on Staff Counselling
  • Staff Development Wellbeing Courses and Resources

Out of University:

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mind: Coronavirus and your wellbeing.
Off The Record: being resilient through the Coronavirus disruption.
Free Headspace Mindfulness: weathering the storm.
BBC article: how to protect your mental health.
WHO: mental health and psychosocial considerations during Covid-19.
NHS: guidance on relieving stress.

Bereavement Services and Resources  

Cruse Bereavement Care: The Cruse Bereavement Care Freephone National Helpline is staffed by trained bereavement volunteers, who offer emotional support to anyone affected by bereavement. The number is 0808 808 1677 ​or email helpline@cruse.org.uk.
Bristol Bereavement Network: directory of local services for Bristol.
Good Grief Trust: an online portal of UK bereavement services, searchable by type and location.
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP): for information on finding a qualified counsellor.
The Samaritans.
At a Loss: to help signpost you to the right support.
Shapes of Grief, a podcast/blog by Liz Gleeson, Bereavement Therapist
Griefcast, a podcast that examines the human experience of grief and death, hosted by comedian Cariad Lloyd.

Good Grief Festival runs 30 October – 1 November 2020, with free events related to grief and loss of different kinds. You can also register to access all the content afterwards for 3 years for £20.

Reflections as a black medical student

by Adewale Kukoyi

Reflections

During lockdown, I’ve had ample time to reflect.

To reflect on my first year at University, all the positives and negatives, the pedantic learning techniques I used and my overall perspective on Medicine. However, more profoundly, I’ve reflected on my own position, and the value I can potentially share with others from my community or background who may believe where I am is unachievable for them.

Including me, there are only six black male students in my year group of roughly 270.

As one of very few, I felt it essential to share my experiences with others from a similar background to me so that they can take the necessary steps to start their medical journey

Volunteering

The opportunity to give back arose when approached by Medic Mentality – an upcoming medical school initiative, aiming to increase representation in Medicine through mentorship services, personal statement reviews, events, and UCAT/BMAT advice. They asked me to join them on an Instagram live to discuss my experience as a Bristol medical student. Founded by Aderonke Odetunde, Maria Taiwo, Osas Ogbeide, Nehita Oviojie and Toni Oduwole (all 2nd-year medical students at UCL) aims to equip students from underprivileged backgrounds with the confidence to make the application to medical school. Despite only launching in July 2020, the scheme already has 30 mentees.

@medicmentality (Instagram)

I have also joined various organisations who work to empower younger generations through mentorship and provision of resources. I am currently a mentor with The Black Excellence Network and BME Medics Bristol Year 2 Lead. In both roles, I work with prospective medical students by providing tailor-made consultations over their applications, helping with drafts of their personal statements, and giving an insight into life at Bristol.

As well as working with prospective medical students, I also work with other current medical students, and I am an active member of the newly formed Black Medic Plexus. We are a network which prides itself in building a strong community and network for black medical students across the UK. The platform was created (and founded by the brilliant Sharon Amukamara) to create a supportive space for black medics based on community and work-life balance.

My advice

My biggest tip for black students looking to enter Medicine (or Higher Education in general!) would be to have the self-confidence to apply. There are so many mental barriers you can put yourself under, ranging from imposter syndrome (feeling of not belonging) to a lack of role-models. My advice would be to reach out to any organisations (like the ones I’m part of) for guidance, information and the belief that you are capable of excelling in your chosen field.

Finally, I would also urge any medical student to get involved and recognise the value they can exchange with others. We are in a position that is hard to access and providing any help along the way is vital in uplifting future generations.

by Adewale Kukoyi

 

Find your Support

Hi everyone! Khadija here, chair of the BME network, elected by BME students to represent BME students at a university and SU level.

Many students struggle with finding support, and in my role, I particularly find this as an issue for BME students, who often find it difficult to see how to access the university’s services. As such, I’ve become familiar with what is available, and have had some great discussions with the staff behind them already to incorporate the needs of all students, including those from racial and ethnic minorities! How to Find your Support:

1. Student Wellbeing Service

This is your first port of call if you’re struggling, and includes a range of services, from:

Student Wellbeing Advisors, who can help direct you to where you need to go.

TalkCampus app, giving you online peer-support any time of day and night.

– Self-help resources, including the FIKA Covid-19 support app, which is designed to help you learn practical mental and emotional fitness approaches which you can apply to your everyday life.

The Student Counselling Service, including a specific BAME Counselling service run by NILAARI, which the BME Network supported being expanded into the university last year.

– The uni are working with Bristol Drugs Project too and ‘The Drop’ harm reduction service. If you’re thinking about trying drugs or if drug use has become a problem, reach out via email thedrop@bdp.org.uk find them on Instagram above or call 0117 987 6000.

2. Personal Tutors

Make sure to reach out to your Personal Tutor whenever you need them, for any issues, no matter how big or small. As a network, we’ve engaged with the services to try and work on some diversity training so they can better support all students.

3. Study Skills

Check out the Study Skills online! I’ve been a medical student for 3 years, and now I’m intercalating in a Masters and having to manage my own learning far more. So I used these pages for the first time this year and found them surprisingly helpful!

4. Library Services

The Library Services are always there as a channel of support with subject librarian advice, if you have any issues finding resources and there’s a Library Support team too for accessibility. In light of COVID they have some great online resources, including the 24/7 live chat service and a great range of self help books too – their One-Stop Shop page is super helpful.

They’ve also just collaborated with the BME Network on sharing resources and books by Black authors for Black History Month, with students like yourself writing the reviews!

I’ve spotted they’re offering Online Study Lounges during October, they’re half-day events led by the Study Skills team and an opportunity to connect with other students online rather than working completely alone.

5. Students’ Union

You can become a course rep and advocate on the issues that you’re finding in your course to help feedback and represent your fellow students.

As well as this, engaging with societies and volunteering can be a great way to find friends and build your student community. I dressed up as a Banana for a week to raise money for charity as part of the Islamic society, something I never dreamed I’d be doing when I first started!

The BME Network believes in collaborating with a range of societies to create a variety of spaces to suit all needs – from large social events like festivals and cultural exchanges, to smaller more relaxed sessions like political discussion groups or wellbeing chat.

At the beginning, the range of what’s out there can feel confusing. It’s all about finding the areas you feel you belong and understanding what helps you feel good early on, so that you know where to find it in times of stress. Maybe sport is your thing? They’re part of the ‘Give it a go’ taster sessions currently running.

6. Peer Mentoring

If you’d find it helpful talking to a current student studying a similar subject to you, look into the Peer Mentoring scheme. It’s open to first year undergraduates to help you settle into uni life and nice to talk to someone who likely knows how you’re feeling and may have the answer! You do need to complete the form before the end of October.

 

This university should support you in thriving both academically and socially, so make sure you access and use the full range of services available, and if there’s something missing, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Remember, even if you might not feel like you fit in to the university community immediately, you still have the right to take up space in being unapologetically yourself!

Get ahead of worries this World Mental Health Day

Written by Dr Dominique Thompson

Starting university is always a big moment in life, but in 2020 it’s going to be a historic moment too. Living in a new institution, perhaps a new city, in a global pandemic certainly adds an edge to the whole process.  

So if you are feeling a little stressed (which would be entirely normal) help is at hand and you may find the new, free, online course that I helped to create, ‘Being Well Living Well’, very useful indeed.  

I was the lead GP at the University of Bristol for many years, and now spend my professional life creating useful resources to support students and their wellbeing. I’m really proud to have been the UK lead advisor for this online course, which will be available to Bristol students. 

In developing the course, we worked closely with students and professionals from all over the world, and I personally wrote the ‘Stress, Anxiety and Depression’ module based on all my years of experience and expertise looking after Bristol students.

It was really important to me to try to help future students to ‘get ahead’ of worries, understand what was happening for them, and provide really practical suggestions about how to manage anxiety or low mood. Whether you are feeling on edge, sleeping badly, want to understand if you have anxiety or depression, or wish to support a friend who is struggling, you will find the ‘Stress, Anxiety and Depression’ module helpful.

I hope you will enjoy the animations and interactive quizzes and activities which we, and our student co-creators, felt made our advice clearer and more engaging. We also ensured a diverse range of students were represented and provided for in the course.

The other modules that make up ‘Being Well Living Well’ cover a whole array of issues that students can find challenging, from perfectionism, financial worries, how to study effectively and mental health problems. There will be something to help everyone within the course.

So whether you’re just curious, or struggling – we made this for you.

You can access Being Well Living Well on Blackboard – self enrol here

 

Find your Balance

You’ve likely heard by now that uni is a great place to try new extracurricular activities and continue with the things that you’re passionate about. We’ve got you covered at Bristol with a huge array of options so that you can strike the right balance between your studies and making the most of being a Bristol student.

Due to COVID-19 you’ll see a lot of these events and activities have gone virtual this year. There’s still much to enjoy on campus and we’ve made some changes to enable you to get involved safely, such as adapting our spaces and enhanced hygiene measures.

Explore societies, volunteering & much more at the SU Welcome Fair

Held on 7 October 12 pm – 8 pm, the Official Bristol SU Welcome Fair is going virtual for 2020 with registration opening on Monday 14 September.

At the virtual fair you’ll be able to chat to stallholders live online using the interactive chat, sign up to sports clubs and societies and look into volunteering projects. It’s a great way to find out more about Bristol SU and as an added bonus, commercial stallholders will be giving out freebies and discount codes!

Sport – there’s something for everyone

Sport and exercise can have a hugely positive impact on your student experience. It’s not only a great way to stay active and healthy, it can also improve your mental wellbeing, be a great way to meet new people, improve your confidence and help you learn new skills. There are 70+ Sports Clubs and Societies at the University of Bristol, from Performance level sports such as Rugby, Hockey, Tennis, and Rowing – all of which have men’s and women’s or mixed teams – to the more unusual sports including Spike Ball, Synchronised Swimming and Quidditch!

If team-sport isn’t your thing, check out the Indoor Sport Centre on Tyndall Avenue where you’ll find the University Gym and fitness studios. You can book gym sessions and classes online now too via the University of Bristol Sport App.

And, if you’re looking for something a bit more fun, with a bit less commitment, then B:Active might be for you. B:Active is our physical activity programme exclusively for students. The focus is on getting moving, having fun, being social and feeling included.

If your time on campus is going to be limited, make sure to check out the virtual and on-demand fitness classes and events that will be on offer this year from Bristol Uni Sport, and join the #WeAreBristol community from your own home.

Being Well, Living Well toolkit

Take a look at our new Being Well, Living Well toolkit for some great resources on ‘Living Well’, ‘Feeling Well’, ‘Staying Safe’ and ‘Spending Well’. These have been developed by a team of mental health experts, healthcare professionals, university students and staff to equip you with practical tips and tools that will empower you to manage your mental, physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. It also includes where to seek further help if needed.

“We want you to make the most of your time at university and for you to feel settled and supported. The toolkit has a lot to offer with interactive modules, practice scenarios, student interviews and much more. I’d encourage you to spend some time exploring the resources and feel free to discuss and share with your friends.”

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Student Experience)

The toolkit helps build self-insight and understanding that you are not alone in experiencing challenges. It highlights useful aspects of your student life such as what to expect, adapting to change, how to manage your money, and build healthy relationships.

How to access Being Well, Living Well

You can access the toolkit anytime, using your single sign-on in Blackboard. You will be automatically enrolled a few days after your Blackboard account becomes active, but if you want to access the Being Well, Living Well content sooner you can self-enrol and access it now. Follow the self-enrol link, log in with your University ID and Password and you will be taken to a page with instructions for joining. If you don’t see the self-enrol button then you’re already enrolled. Once enrolled, you can find the Being Well, Living Well materials on the Blackboard homepage under the My Organisations section.

Spend some time looking through the toolkit to help you feel settled and successfully navigate your new uni life.

Chill out in an SU Living Room

The SU Living Rooms are a space to relax and unwind either on your own or with friends. You’ll find one on the fourth floor of Senate House plus four more in halls of residence. Follow the link and join the online living room to connect with others right now, ask any questions and have fun in one of the many events that are planned.

Get to know Bristol

Keep an eye on our social channels next week for lots more about ‘Bristol Living’ and tips on places to explore. Bristol has all the perks of city life with wide open green spaces only a short distance away – much within walking distance or a short bus ride. The entire city is bursting with culture, flavours, music and opportunities to get involved – you will never be short of ways to Find your Balance.