Words by Gemma King, full-time RUSU Welfare Officer.
Last term was busy!
The main area I have focused on is mental health, something that is close to my heart and because it affects so many students. After finding out that 1 in 4 students struggle with their mental health at University, I decided to run a campaign called #1in4 (You’re not Alone) so that students have and know how to use positive coping mechanisms, to support their mental health.
As part of this year-long campaign, I want to improve appropriate resources for mental health provisions at the University, improve signposting so students know where to access appropriate support and finally provide tools to improve positive coping mechanisms for mental health issues.
So far, I have run a ‘1 in 4’ union night and a mental wellness fayre for World Mental Health Day, in collaboration with the society ‘Open Mind’. For the Union night, I was doing blue glitter face paint, 1 in 4 cups had stickers on them stating ‘1in4 you’re not alone’ and Open Mind were there raising money for Mind. There were also digital screens up (which are still up) directing students to support services, and showed statistics about mental health, to make students feel less alone.
For the Mental Wellness Fayre, students shared wellbeing tips, and we had a suicide prevention speaker talking about Jonny Benjamin ‘The Stranger on the Bridge’ which is an inspiring story about a stranger who saved a man from jumping off waterloo bridge.
As part of my campaign I have also been running a survey to get feedback about experiences of mental health and services, so that I can bring this to the University’s attention. I have also started a podcast, with the first episode being about Mental Wellbeing at University. You can find this on the University Essentials pages or on Apple podcasts if you type in ‘1 in 4 you’re not alone’.
I have also been helping to promote the amazing work that Sport in Mind are doing. They run 6 sessions a week for students struggling with stress, anxiety or any other mental health related issue. The sessions are a mix of high and low impact activity from mindfulness to badminton. Student volunteers recently received their active leader certificate from Robert, our Vice Chancellor, which was great to see! (image).
In addition to this, I have been working with the University on an alcohol awareness campaign called ‘Be A Mate’. We trialled workshops surrounding alcohol awareness and interventions, run by the Alcohol Community Officer from Reading Borough Council.
We are going to be running more of these sessions next term. We also had some activities during Alcohol Awareness Week. We were giving out cups and scratch cards, with alcohol measurements on so that students make a more informed approach when drinking. I also made a #1in4 podcast about the effects of drinking on mental health.
I have also worked with the University and with Zeid (Diversity Officer) on the #NeverOk campaign. During Fresher’s week we had the Caravan Theatre here and they performed a play called Ninety Four Thousand which concentrated on identifying hate crime and the serious effects hate crimes can have on people’s lives.
We also had a board up around the University, encouraging students to put up what was Never Ok (examples include; bullying, sexual harassment, racism) and advertised how you can report these, by emailing email@example.com.
For next term, I am in the process of planning a housing campaign, and I am also hoping to get my Welfare Directory up and running, which will signpost students to support, on and off campus.