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.