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.

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.

Digital learning resources available for you!

Although this is a difficult time for everyone, we are here to ease the transition to online learning and provide you with all the technical support and advice you need.   

There are plenty of useful online resources available to you.  

These include:  

  • Study from home – looks at ways to manage your time and workspace, how to work towards learning outcomes and how to get the most out of online study.
  • Online open-book exams guidance  – looks at ways to prepare for and answer open book exams effectively.
  • Student laptop and mobile clinic goes virtual – The laptop and mobile clinic is a free service to help current University of Bristol students who are having problems with laptops, tablets or smartphones. The clinic will run weekdays from 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm.
  • Study Skills blogs
  • Dissertation Writing Retreats and Study Loungesboth aimed at offering students an online environment to work “in the same space” as others. Throughout May, there are lots of workshops including specific ones about online study and online exams all bookable
  • Online tutorials, including help with maths and statistics – offer a great opportunity to discuss your work in a confidential, safe space with an experienced and professional tutor. 
  • Accessing IT systems from home – quick links to the University IT systems such as Blackboard, Collaborate, specialist software and more. 
  • Study Skills sessions – enhance your academic skills with our range of self-help online resources, get quick advice at our 15 minute drop-in sessions with Bristol Futures Advocates, choose from a range of workshops or book a one-to-one tutorial with a Study Skills tutor.
  • Free library online resources  – access free online resources, including ebooks, ejournals, and databases to help support you.
  • Top tips for working from home  – Bristol SU provide some useful tips for working and studying remotely.  

There is further information on the Teaching, Assessment and academic guidance webpage.

 

24/7 wellbeing services available for those in need of support

In these strange and uncertain times, it’s understandable that many of you will be feeling anxious, sad or even a little bit scared, which can be tough to say out loud. Don’t forget that there are many support services out there for you, with some offering a listening ear 24/7. 

TalkCampus 

TalkCampus is here if you need someone to talk to, about anything, anywhere, at anytime. The app enables you to message fellow students from all over the world, day and night. You can share your worries and thoughts with those going through the exact same struggles as you. 

This is a safe place where you can talk anonymously and get support for your mental health and whatever is on your mind. 

Download TalkCampus for free today using your University email address and make things a little bit easier. 

Alongside the app, TalkCampus have added 18 self-guide meditations for you on their Soundcloud, with a blog to supplement them. 

Big White Wall 

People come to Big White Wall for support with a range of mental health and wellbeing issues – from anxiety, depression, stress, to lifestyle changes and relationships problems. This digital support and recovery service provides an anonymous online community for you to share your thoughts and feelings with others who may share the same troubles.  

This safe space is monitored by trained professionals who are available 24/7. There are also lots of resources and learning activities available to help you deal with a variety of difficulties and challenges. 

Use Big White Wall today and receive support from an online community day and night. 

Shout Crisis Messenger 

Shout is a UK text service for anyone who needs to talk. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. The service is available 24/7, with a team of volunteers helping those in need to go from crisis to calm. 

Text Bristol to 85258 to be connected to a trained volunteer. 

If you feel you need further support than what is offered above, head over to the Wellbeing pages to find further resources and services.  

 

Tis the season to…take a break.

Festive greetings from Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President and the University Management Team.

The holiday season is almost upon us. Although the University closes for Christmas on 21 December, you can still access some of our facilities over the break. Take a look at the services and support available over the holidays.

Merry Bristmas!

Bristol SU Living Room

If you’re staying in Bristol during the holidays, there’s still plenty going on including seasonal activities at the newly launched Bristol SU Living Room taking place from 17 – 20 December. You can also hear more about events taking place in the local area while the University is closed and meet other students who might be staying in Bristol during this time.

Don’t forget to join the UoB Staying in Bristol at Christmas Facebook page. All students are welcome to join and you can find out more about other events such as the Christmas lunch with all the trimmings and a Boxing Day Tour around the historic listed Goldney Gardens and Grotto.

Relax and unwind

The holiday season is the perfect time to take a breather and unwind ahead of the New Year. You don’t need us to tell you about all the benefits of sport and activity; it’s well known how positive an effect it can have on your mental and physical wellbeing. For those staying in Bristol, the indoor sports centre will still be open part of the time together with the Students’ Health Service. You can find out about opening hours here.

Academic support

Ease the pressure of the January exam period by getting clued up on all the academic support and tools available to you on the Study Support pages. Brush up on your revision techniques and exam preparation with these online tutorials; Revision planning, Revision techniques, Exam papers & questions and Exams & Wellbeing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your studies, maybe take some time to reflect on what you think could help you when we reopen. Start a portfolio with Personal Development Planning (PDP) and jot down which areas you feel you could use some guidance on.

See all the Academic Support on offer for you through our Study Support pages.

Many of our services are still open while you’re away from your studies; even during the University closure dates we have study areas open and some of our services running. You can see the opening hours here.

Stay connected

We know that the festive season isn’t easy for everyone so if you want to talk to someone, you will be able to access support via our Residential Life Support Centre, open to all students for urgent issues, whether you live in Uni residences or not. There are also self-help tools to provide support, including Big White Wall.

While students are not officially back until 14 January, the University reopens on 3 January and we’ll be here for you if you have any questions.  You can contact your Personal Tutor, speak to our Information Point and use the libraries and study areas.

From all of us at the University of Bristol, we wish you a restful break. Happy Holidays!

#TisTheSeason 🌟

 

Tis the season to…get a little more.

To help you enjoy the break and take some time to look after yourself we’ve got Academic Support all wrapped up for you.

 

 

Before the break we have extra Academic Support on offer through our Faculty Study Skills workshops. These are running until 19 December – check out what’s still available.

Many of our services are still open while you’re away from your studies; even during the University closure dates we have study areas open and some of our services running. You can see the opening hours for these services online.

While students are not officially back until 14 January, the University reopens on 3 January and we’ll be here for you if you have any questions.  You can contact your Personal Tutor, speak to our Student Information Service and use the libraries and study areas.

While you’re away, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your studies, maybe take some time to reflect on what you think could help you when we reopen. Start a portfolio with Personal Development Planning (PDP) and jot down which areas you feel you could use some guidance on.

See what Academic Support is on offer for you through our Study Support pages.

Happy Holidays!

 

Tis the season to…stay connected

As the term comes to a close, some will be preparing to return home to friends and family, while others will be staying put for ‘Bristmas’ in the city.

Whatever you have planned for the festive period, be sure to make the most of your break by enjoying time with others and finding time to unwind.

Stay connected

Those spending the break in Bristol are invited to join in with a variety of festivities.

The newly launched Bristol SU Living Room on the fourth floor of Senate House is running lots of seasonal activities, including Christmas crafts, old school games and traditional nibbles to ease you into the holiday season. Look out for the daily Festive Mingle events from 17 – 20 December too.

This is a great opportunity to find out about events taking place in the local area while the University is closed and meet other students who might be staying in Bristol during this time.

All students staying in Bristol over Christmas are welcome to enjoy Christmas lunch with all the trimmings and take a Boxing Day Tour around the historic listed Goldney Gardens and Grotto. Join the UoB Staying in Bristol at Christmas Facebook page to stay in touch and keep posted on other festive events taking place during the holiday.

Relax

The holiday season is the perfect time to take a breather from the busyness of the first term, unwind and nurture your wellbeing ahead of the New Year.

For those staying in Bristol, please find out about our opening hours during the holidays including study spaces, the Students’ Health Service and the sports facilities.

If you want to talk to someone over the festive season, you will be able to access support via our Residential Life Support Centre, open to all students for urgent issues, whether you live in University residences or not.

There are also self-help tools to provide support, including Big White Wall.

Recap

After the festive break comes the January exam period. Ease the pressure by getting clued up on all the academic support and tools available to you on the Study Support pages.

For further academic support, we offer drop-ins, revision workshops, one to one sessions and tutorials.

#TisTheSeason

 

Tis the season to…celebrate community.

Watch some festive greetings from Eva Larkai, Chair of the BME Network and Aisha Rana-Deshmukh, President of Bollywood Dance Society.

How will you be spending your time over the holidays? #TisTheSeason

If you’re staying in Bristol, don’t forget to join the University Staying in Bristol Facebook Group listing events and activities taking place over the festive season.

You can also find out about our opening hours during the holidays including study spaces, the Students’ Health Service and the sports facilities. If you want to talk to someone over the festive season, you will be able to access support via our Residential Life Support Centre, open to all students for urgent issues, whether you live in Uni residences or not. There are also self-help tools to provide support, including Big White Wall.