Wednesday, 14 June 2017

12 runs in 12 months!

Andrew is running to improve student mental health and explains how he is tying his passion for fundraising and sport together.
- Andrew Morbey

When I heard fellow Champion Fundraiser Jess Mell was doing the Sheffield Colour Run, I thought it was a great chance to participate in my first fundraiser, meet Jess and catch up with another long term friend. Whilst running the 5km circuit, I enjoyed the feeling of surrounding myself with other runners and walkers who were there to have fun and shared a common connection of fundraising. This is when I decided that I’d sign up to one 10km or half marathon each month for a year, as this was a great way of tying my passion for fundraising and sport together.

Having grown up in a very active and sporty family, I was out playing rugby, cricket and athletics at any opportunity I was given at school. Once school finished, with University round the corner, I struggled to keep fit and stay on top of my depression. However, by joining Lindfield Rugby Club back in Sydney I was able to keep motivated to exercise and turn up to training so that I didn’t let my team mates down. 

Fast forward to February this year when I arrived in England, I joined Burton Rugby Club to meet new people and attend training to keep up my fitness. It wasn’t long till I found myself moving to Warwick as I was offered a job at FEC Energy and with the rugby season coming to an end, I had to come up with a new way of staying fit. My initial thought was to go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, but with depression, I found that finding the motivation to go by myself after a long day at work was hard.

Deciding to complete this year long fundraiser has given me motivation to train more seriously, running 5-10km once or twice a week as well as going to the gym. So far, I have completed the Sheffield Colour Run (April) and the Hercules Sporting Festival (May) in Watford, as well as signing up for the Hampshire Hoppit Half Marathon (June) and the Wimbledon Half Marathon (July).

It also helps when work is celebrating its 50th anniversary by organising walks, cycling and running events for the year for another mental health charity, Mind. In September, FEC Energy has allowed me to compete in the Warwickshire Wolf Run in a joint fundraiser for Mind and Student Minds.

Running gives me the freedom to explore the beautiful England countryside and discover the hidden places of Warwickshire, as well as staying fit and distracting my brain from over-thinking. Participating in running events around the UK has also encouraged me to do some weekends away, instead of sitting at home and sleeping all weekend.  

I am a twenty-five-year-old Aussie bloke chasing my dream of living in the UK. After buying my one-way ticket and making the big move, I came into contact with Student Minds through a mental health charity in Australia called Batyr. I applied for their Fundraising Champions initiative earlier this year, and when I was elected, my head filled up with ideas on how I can help break down this mental health stigma. I wanted to start by sharing my story with Student Minds and the extended mental health community.

Find out more about what the amazing fundraising champions are up to and donate here.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Coping with Clubbing Anxiety

Tamsin talks us through the often complicated relationship between clubbing and anxiety, and typically unrealistic expectations of a 'good night'.
- Tamsin McLeod

Fresher’s t-shirt packaged in tissue paper and overpriced yet apparently necessary textbooks in hand: I am identical to thousands of other ‘fresh meat’ on this foreign university campus. A campus I barely remember from the open day and now call home.

As a fresher, it’s deemed undeniably important to go into the negative numbers of your student loan to buy five jaeger bombs, followed by the sugar coma that are VKs for a new bolt record on a Wednesday night. Clubbing is necessary whilst deadlines are not, at least according to the guidelines of how to have the best first year at university. For many people, first year doesn’t count so obviously, us ‘freshers’ must be partying like there’s no tomorrow. Cheesy tunes, drunk texting and a non-existent sleeping pattern all in the name of a good night out. Napping and coffee replacing home-cooked meals and curfew in tribute to going out minimally twice a week.

This was the most anticipated aspect of being a first-year student and all I heard about in the time leading up to starting university. It was daunting and exciting at the same time. It created unrealistically high and idealised expectations of Freshers’ Week as I ran a hundred different scenarios in my head. My social anxiety was having a field day due to all these unknown possibilities of an alcohol fuelled first week of university continuing throughout the year. Except, that’s not now first year truly has to remain.

It is a lie to state that clubbing is a fresher obligation. Not every night has to be lived like it’s your last and you’re at one of Gatsby’s decadent parties, griming to some obscured remix.  For many struggling with anxiety, the idea of clubbing is more daunting than exciting. This feeling of obligation to enjoy such occasions as a fresher only amplifies the anxiety as explaining why you’re turning down yet another night out seems too complex to explain.

For me the idea of not being completely in control due to consuming alcohol terrified me. What if I lost my housemates? What if I lost my phone or ID? What if I fell over onto the sticky floor? What if I looked stupid dancing? What if I am being too clingy? I mean I did attach myself to my housemate’s arm every night we went out. What if people expected me to drink more and drink every drink in the fastest possible time? Every thought about a night out started with ‘what if’ and ended negatively. This alongside the claustrophobic and rowdy queues did not fill my five-foot-nothing self with excitement, like it somehow did with everyone else on a night out.

Nights in are perfectly acceptable, but to be honest we all secretly miss going to bed at 11pm instead of missing half the day to get more than five hours sleep and avoid a hangover. Some of my best nights at university so far have been popcorn and pyjama orientated with my new housemates and friends.

If you prefer to stay in and anyone tells you, you’re ‘boring’ or ‘uncool’, don’t listen to them. It’s okay to stay in sometimes and it’s okay if social anxiety becomes too much some nights. And when these nights do happen, curl up with your favourite movie and a hot chocolate. Do not deny your feelings, or put them down. They are valid and so are you. Night in or nights out can both be good.

However, if your anxiety is at a place where it can be managed (which is a possibility for everyone, even if you don’t believe it now) I have also discovered the joys of clubbing on anxiety free days. The joys coming from putting some glittery eye shadow on and a cute outfit, dancing and singing at the top of your lungs. Going a little crazy with friends on the dance floor can lead to some of the best photos of uni – but so can the nights in were you all cook dinner together and chat about home. 

All in all it’s what you feel most comfortable doing and most comfortable with, and don’t let anyone pressure you into an anxious situation you can’t control and they don’t understand.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

My Anxiety, My Epiphany, and Me

This student suffered from anxiety their whole career, and studying for their PhD was no exception. They were able to move on after an epiphany, when they realised they been trying to please the wrong people.
- Anonymous

I’m a PhD student and, like so many others, I suffer from anxiety. I take medication to help me manage it, but sometimes that’s not enough and I experience panic attacks, episodes of irritability, anger, crying, and feeling utterly helpless. I often struggle to sleep, which amplifies things. It’s all made worse because I’m in my fourth year and no longer have an income through a stipend, but still have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay. My family are affected by my anxiety every bit as much as I am.

My latest episode of anxiety was because I had not been able to write for a long time, and I had reached the point where I had to write or I had to give up. I’m not lazy; people with anxiety generally aren’t. We’re anxious because we want to write but are afraid to. Writing is putting your ideas, a part of yourself, of your soul, out for scrutiny which, for someone with anxiety, is terrifying. And anxiety is reinforcing, so being unable to write increases your anxiety, which makes it even harder to write, and so on ad infinitum.

To people who are thinking, or have said, “can’t you just do it?”, no, I can’t. If I could ‘just’ do it, wouldn’t I have already done it? Please don’t say that to people; it’s not helpful. It’s much deeper than sitting down and making words appear on the page.

I am, and always have been, very sensitive to criticism. My rational self knows I can’t please all people all of the time, and my writing is no different. But my anxious/irrational self doesn’t let me think like this. Clearly everyone should be bowled over by the quality of my work. It’s not that I’m a narcissist or I want huge recognition, or think my work is better than everybody else’s. It’s just that it should be unambiguously right, and everyone should be able to see that.

I started my PhD feeling very positive, thinking ‘I can do this’. My problems started with my upgrade/confirmation panel. Instead of a constructive discussion, I was bullied. After the panel I had a leave of absence for depression. It took me two months to return to work. I had counselling for a year.

Even so, I didn’t really get my confidence back until a few months ago, two years later. I was talking to my partner about giving up or carrying on and I had an epiphany: I realised I’d been subconsciously trying to satisfy the upgrade panel. They were never going to be satisfied, and so it was an impossible task. I’d been afraid to write knowing, in my head at least, that I’ll fail and this has held me back for years.

My partner and supervisor have been telling me to forget all about the panel since it happened. They’re obviously right but, as anybody with anxiety will tell you, it’s really hard to let go of that negative voice because nobody should think you’re wrong. I need to get better at rejecting invalid criticism, but for now my confidence has returned and I’ve been able to write again.

Realising what’s happening has helped me to move on; you can’t begin to fix something if you don’t know what’s going on. Writing this has helped me to understand and articulate what happened. Writing for my supervisors who support me, rather than the panel, has helped tremendously. Most importantly, believing, truly believing, I have something worthwhile to say, even if some people criticise it (and they will) has been the thing that has most helped me to write again. Arguably I’m even in a healthier position by recognising that my work is not immune from criticism, rather than naively thinking I’ll scrape by unscathed, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

(I've submitted this anonymously because I don't think any good can come from identifying the institution and the academics, involved, and not because anxiety is something that should be hidden. Don't be afraid to talk to others about your anxiety.)

Monday, 29 May 2017

Mental Health Travel Guide

Olivia has written a simple guide on travelling abroad with a mental health difficulty.
- Olivia Shortall

It’s time to talk about mental health – don’t let it stop you from going wherever you want to go!

Travelling brings about some of the best memories of your life but it is important to recognise that for some people, it can be extremely challenging. Lack of familiar support systems, disrupted daily routines, language barriers, culture shock and unexpected situations can intensify stress levels rather than alleviate them. Being well informed prior to travel is the best way to prevent any issues happening abroad – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offer a range of advice all in one booklet to help you. The best option is to be as prepared as possible by following a few simple steps:

What mental health services are available in the country you are travelling to?
Understanding of mental health can vary extensively from country to country which is why it is important to carry out your own research before you travel to your destination and the mental health services that they offer. Try and have local contact details for any mental health services for where you are travelling to as a precaution.

Who would be able to help you if your mental health deteriorated whilst abroad? How would you contact them?
It is good to always have at least one person who knows where you are and you can contact when you are travelling abroad. Have their number and details on your phone or on your person at all times. Try and make friendly with whoever you are travelling with – don’t be afraid to let people know if you have any mental health issues. Having people aware can really help out if you ever get into trouble.

Remember, if you ever get into difficulty abroad, you can contact the nearest embassy wherever you are for free and reliable advice and information. They can put you in contact with relatives or contacts in the UK if you have some sort of trouble whilst abroad. It is useful to make a note of embassies which are nearby to where you are travelling to.

Is your medication legal and available in your destination?
Not all medication (including prescribed medication) from the UK is legal in other countries. It is essential that you check this out with your doctor before you travel. The FCO advises that you should also check with them which vaccinations or other health precautions you need to take for your specific destination.

Does your insurance cover your mental health condition?
It is essential that you get comprehensive travel insurance before you go – this covers any type of medical conditions you may have, as well as any activities you plan to undertake abroad. Failure to do so could result in having to pay for the cost of any emergency yourself, including medical bills – which could cost thousands of pounds!

If you are travelling in Europe, do you have an EHIC card?
An EHIC card covers any medical treatment necessary whilst abroad due to either an accident or illness in Europe. You can apply online for your free EHIC at

If you take medication, do you have enough for the duration of your trip?
Ensure you have the correct amount of medication for your trip – it may be useful to have more than necessary just in case there is any issues. Make sure you keep a copy of any prescribed medicine that you have.

For our Student Minds guide to a Year Abroad for yourself or a friend, click here.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offer a handy checklist for anyone who wants to travel abroad with a mental health condition. It’s also worth checking out the FCO website for any relevant and specific information on where you are travelling to so you can ensure you know before you go!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Being diagnosed as disabled while at uni

Beth shares the challenges of being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome while at uni - and how to overcome them

- Beth Wrightson

I'm a realist, so my initial denial of my diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue syndrome) was quite out of character. I received this diagnosis during my placement year of my Psychology undergraduate degree, and didn’t know where to go from there. I had been given a name which explained all my symptoms, and it placed me in a category of people suffering from an invisible disease. It allowed me to explain to those close to me why I withdrew from going clubbing and university life, but the understanding I had hoped for didn't materialise. People shrugged it off as laziness and just being tired. Time and time again I would be told "I'm tired too". Friends stopped asking me to meet up, as I'd often have to cancel due to a relapse of fatigue. I had never thought my diagnosis would come with a side order of stigma from society.

Experiencing a sudden isolation, I became depressed and stopped listening to the warning signs my body was giving me about needing rest. I withdrew from my placement, work started to pile up and I became increasingly stressed and low. I stopped telling people about my diagnosis, fearing questions and misjudgement.

Shortly after my diagnosis, my estranged father came back into my life for a short period before deciding to disown me, I was helping a friend suffering from PTSD, I loathed the degree which I’d once loved, and my flat-mate suffered from an eating disorder which caused her to withdraw from our friendship. Instead of coping, I withdrew. I used to silently stare up at my ceiling for hours on end. Everyday actions like washing and cooking became too much. Nine months after my diagnosis, I finally went to my university and asked for help. I broke down in my meeting at Disability Assist. I had accepted that I had been diagnosed as disabled and that I felt alone, and fed up with a body I didn't understand. The denial didn't just dissolve from that meeting; it's taken almost two years for my denial to lift completely. Receiving therapy allowed me to discuss my own feelings about my diagnosis and the other aspects of my life which had become overwhelming.

If you feel depressed, whether it's about a recent diagnosis or another factor, I urge you to talk to someone. I was trying to deal with a combination of different factors in one go and couldn't do it alone. After waiting for therapy with the NHS for two years, I finally experienced the release of stress and tension I needed. Sometimes talking to a stranger is better than talking to a friend or family member as you can be more open, without fearing judgement. Looking back, I think ringing a helpline would have allowed me to discuss things I needed to, whilst waiting for the NHS.

Talk to your doctor to see if there are any treatment routes which could help your disability. I went to my GP several times about my depression, and was offered anti-depressants that I declined, due to personal preferences. However, going to the GPs did help me accept my diagnosis; it also helped me improve my condition.

If you have been diagnosed with a disability, tell your university straight away. By meeting with Disability Assist at my university, I was able to get extra time during my final year exams, which allowed me have a few spare minutes to rest throughout the exam. It also gave me a safe place to talk about my symptoms and condition without judgement. Having a friendly face understand my condition helped me and allowed me to realise that, while having a disability comes with its limitations, it won't stop me from reaching my goals in life. I'll never be able to walk up Kilimanjaro with my fatigue, but I never wanted to anyway!

Beth is currently undertaking an MA in Creative Writing at Plymouth University. By being the Editor of the Student Minds Blog, Beth encourages others to talk about mental health openly. In her free time, she writes on her personal blog on topics from disability to beauty reviews.

Over-attaching and Fears of Abandonment

Fiona shares her experience of over-attaching to people in her life, and gives advice on how to deal with this in a healthy way.
- Fiona Perriss

“Don’t leave me”

“Everyone always abandons me; they all leave eventually”

“People always get sick of me, it must be my fault”

“I need you”

These thoughts go round in my head on a daily basis. I don’t know why. All I know is that I seem to have this intense fear that everyone around me will leave and I’ll be abandoned.

Believe me, I wish I didn’t become so attached to people to the point where I pin all my self-worth on them. It’s exhausting. I wind up idolising one specific individual, I want to be their favourite, I get jealous when I see them talking to other people. If I message them and they don’t reply instantly, I start thinking that I’m annoying them and that they’re ignoring me on purpose. Of course, this is probably not the case, but I still take it personally. I obsess and I cling on to them. They become my go-to person for when I’m upset, or when I’m having a panic attack. I don’t go to my friends or family and I can’t seem to self-soothe, even after having built up a list of coping strategies through countless therapy sessions. It has to be this one person.

I can’t figure out why this only happens with certain people. I just feel it happening and warn myself “oh, be careful now, it’s happening again, you’re getting too attached”. I cling to anyone that shows any inkling of kindness towards me - teachers, guidance counsellors, tutors, doctors, therapists. I know how much pressure I put on the other person. Then the guilt, the depression and the anxiety come in. It’s like a never-ending spiral. And then I become too much for that person. I put all my problems onto them. I can feel it building up, and then I ultimately explode and spit out all my problems and fears and insecurities. Then they leave and I’m alone and I’m left with all my problems and fears and insecurities, but worse. Their leaving hits me like a train. Deep down, I know they don’t mean to hurt me. But I do take it to heart and the abandonment thoughts start to creep in. It hurts. It really hurts.

What suggestions do I have for anyone who recognises these things in themselves or in people around them? Well, if you know someone who has similar behaviours, please be patient with them. Choose your words carefully, because a throwaway comment that might not mean much to you can cause a lot of damage. Be consistent; if you’ve said you will meet them or call them at a certain time, stick to it.  People like me can be very sensitive to sudden changes of plans. Please don’t make fun of or belittle the situation, and don’t turn around and say “why are you so obsessed with that person?” Chances are we know we are being irrational/clingy/obsessive, but we can’t always help it.

If you’ve put someone on a pedestal, I strongly believe that honesty is the best policy. Tell them you sometimes feel you get too attached, and encourage them to talk about their feelings about the situation. If they’re a genuinely nice person, they will hopefully have some level of understanding and empathy. From my experience, those who freak out and leave aren’t the sort of people you want in your life anyway.

Also, it doesn’t have to be such a negative thing! You feel a connection with that person because you think they’re awesome! Another key point to remember is that people leave: they move away, get new jobs and may not stay in your life forever, however much you want them to. You are not a bad person, and they are not leaving because of you, despite what you may feel. Yes, attachment and feelings of abandonment are hard. But you WILL get through it (cheesy as it sounds!)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Losing Someone to Suicide

Erin discusses the difficulties in coming to terms with death, and how to cope with a loved one taking their own life.                                                                                   - Erin Cadden

Losing any family member or friend is difficult. Dealing with grief is the hardest thing you’ll have to face with in life. But losing someone to suicide - this can be even more heart destroying. 

People say that those who take their own life are selfish. The people saying this are na├»ve in thinking that it was the individual’s choice to make this life-ending decision. Mental illness controls your brain and your thoughts – thoughts so consuming and loud that sometimes you lose track of the fact it’s not you talking, but your mind.

I was 8 years old. It was 2006 and my Dad was only 40. I remember coming home from a sleepover with a close family member and entering the living room to my mum in tears. As an 8-year-old you don’t think losing a parent is something you’ll have to experience. In fact, at this age it’s something you can’t even mentally process. How is anyone this young meant to understand that someone who was supposed to love you so much has taken their own life? How are you meant to understand that you’ll never again get the opportunity to hear their laugh, to feel their hugs or see their face? It was, and still is, soul destroying.

The movement of tectonic plates could not compare to the shift in reality that had happened for myself and my family that day. We not only had to mourn the reality that we had lost the most important man in our lives, but we had to come to terms with how it happened. I’m now 19 years old, and if I’m completely honest, I still don’t fully understand the passing of my father. 

In cycles, I went through the different stages of grief. To this day I still do, trying to come to terms with the fact my father left us. Some days, I get angry. I blame him for it all, blame him for ending his life, for leaving my family, and for making us have to live life without him. Sometimes I just feel sad and empty. Sad about the fact that I never really got to know him. About the fact he will never watch my sisters and I grow up or walk us down the aisle. 

But sometimes I’m happy knowing that I experienced him, even if it was for a very small amount of time in my early childhood. I’m happy to remember the small memories I shared with him, and I’m happy to know that wherever he is, he’s no longer suffering. There’s a massive hole in our heart that will never be filled by anyone. Dads are one of a kind. But my Dad was someone incredibly special.

My father’s death raises a lot of anxiety for myself. You can’t blame people with mental illness for taking their own lives, because it’s not themselves that make the decision, but the illness itself. The fact I now suffer with mental illness means I can empathise, and go some way to understanding what drove my dad to do what he did. It wasn’t his fault. The darkness just overcame him.

Those who take their own lives don’t make that decision themselves. Don’t blame the person, but the illness. You can’t take anything for granted. You can’t know what’s going to happen in a year, month or even hour. All you can do is live life to the fullest, loving and being loved.

Friday, 19 May 2017

We love being on the Student Minds Blog Editorial Team!

The Student Minds Blog Editorial Team have spent the past year editing and publishing students' stories about mental health at university. Meet the team, and apply to join the new Editorial Team for 2017-18.
- The Editorial Team 2016-17

In my role I’ve enjoyed meeting and working with new people; this includes the sub-editors, Student Minds staff and the inspirational bloggers. Being on the team for a year I’ve learnt lots of different skills from making the newsletters to working better in a team. I’ve loved being the Editor for the Student Minds Blog mainly as I’ve enjoyed reading and sharing our bloggers’ posts. I can relate to the isolation and stigma which comes in hand with poor mental health having experienced this during my time at university, the blog removes this stigma and helps people realise they aren’t alone; I look forward to this continuing with our new team. - Beth (Editor)

Being on the editorial team has affected me in ways I didn't expect. People shared close, personal stories with me, and whilst editing them well felt like a lot of responsibility, it was incredibly eye-opening and I found myself being repeatedly inspired by the journeys people had undergone. Bloggers were often so grateful - so being an editor, being able to publish their stories, really felt like I was making a change to someone's day. Not just this, but I've noticed my editing skills have improved dramatically, and I feel much more accomplished as a writer - which certainly came in handy during the last year of an English degree! - Rhiannon

Although I’ve only been a part of the Editorial Team for a short time, it has already been a great experience. I have really enjoyed reading the brilliant blogs which people have sent to us, and having the opportunity to edit them and get them published is such a privilege! Furthermore, editing other people’s work has given me a greater understanding as a writer of the decisions that editors make when they edit my work. To top it all off, the existing Student Minds team made me feel very welcome when I joined. - Jasmine

I have thoroughly enjoyed my role as a sub-editor for Student Minds! I am grateful for the opportunity I had to use my experience of mental health to help others, and make something that was so negative into something positive. I have enjoyed interacting with others and being part of this inspiring project! - Chloe

Want to join the Editorial Team and help students write about their experiences of mental health? We're looking for students to join the Editorial Team for 2017-18 - apply here by 28th May 2017!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sophie's University Mental Health Q&A

When Sophie started university in 2015, she struggled from the start. Since starting she has developed anxiety and depression. Watch her vlog to find out how she copes at university with mental health issues, as she answers questions from friends online.

Sophie explains how Student Minds helps her and other students like her whilst at university. Sophie runs a lifestyle blog and YouTube in which she speaks about her mental health, university/life updates and reviews!

MHAW17: Surviving and Thriving on your Year Abroad

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Gemma shares the simple tips she learned while she was away, so you can have a year abroad to remember!
Gemma Sowerby

Ever heard the myth that ‘your year abroad is the best year of your life’? Don’t worry if you’re filled with trepidation and stress rather than excitement and calm. Your year abroad is not always about thriving: sometimes it’s just surviving. However, if you do your best to stay on top of your mental health, make the most of your time abroad, and take each day as it comes, you can have the most enriching, rewarding, and eye-opening year. Here are some simple tips that I learned while away, so you can have a year abroad to remember — for all the right reasons.

What’s the plan?
Planning is the key to any successful year abroad, especially if you have mental health difficulties that make dealing with unexpected challenges or setbacks even harder. You’ll need to take copies of all your personal documents, especially if you’re working or studying abroad in mainland Europe, where the paperwork can be overwhelming. Do as much research as you can on your destination in advance, such as which areas to avoid, how to open bank accounts, and finding accommodation, to make the move as smooth as possible.

Broaden your horizons
Even if you’re teaching or working, use your weekends and down time wisely – try to visit as many new places as possible. Cheap rail or bus travel is easy to find, especially if you can profit from student rates, and it’s well worth a rocky bus ride for a glorious trip to the sun, sea, sands, or slopes! Check out trips organised by your host university or any societies in your local area. If your friends are more far-flung, why not take solo voyages to bustling cities or tiny towns, and soak up the culture while you can (as well as wowing your friends with your glorious Instagram feed).

Health and safety
If you have regular medication, make sure to plan with your doctor in advance how much you’ll need, especially if your medication isn’t available in your destination country. You should also make your home university aware of any conditions, so they can help should any issues arise. Make sure you have an EHIC card and appropriate travel insurance in case you fall ill abroad — there’s nothing worse than feeling unsafe or on edge about your health and safety. You’re there to enjoy yourself after all, so take precautions.

Escape your comfort zone
The most important thing to make sure you thrive on your year abroad is to try new things and meet new people — it’s no good sticking to what you know when the whole point of your year abroad is to experience a new way of life! Try out the local cuisine, look for any festivals or events run by the local community, or find a tandem language partner to meet new people and improve your lingo in a fun environment. It is daunting moving to a new place, but the only way to overcome the fear is to take part and escape your bubble in a way that feels safe and fun.

For information on visas, laws, vaccinations, and local travel advice for 225 countries around the world, make sure you check out the FCO’s website at, and sign up for email updates to get the latest straight to your inbox.

For our Student Minds guide to a Year Abroad for yourself or a friend, click here.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

From Perfectionism to Positivity

Katherine writes about how striving for perfection affects her mental health, and how being open about her experiences has helped her to think more positively about the future.
- Katherine Wood

During my first year at university, I experienced severe weight loss due to anorexia. Fortunately, I recovered, and for the last three years my weight has remained relatively stable. I am now able to sustain high levels of training as a competitive endurance athlete.
While I no longer consider myself to have an eating disorder, I now experience depression with anxiety despite, on the face of it, being a very successful 21-year-old. I am high-achieving academically; I have a supportive boyfriend and a caring family; I am in the top handful of endurance runners in the UK for my age and distance; and anything I put my mind to, I excel at.

But these seemingly positive things are major driving forces for my mental health problems. I am a perfectionist, pushing myself hard and only accepting being the best at everything. While this could be perceived as a good thing, it means I can never be truly satisfied with my achievements because either I only attain what I expected, or I don’t do as well as I believe I should. 

Furthermore, my social anxiety has become progressively worse, meaning that my automatic answer to social invitations is always “no”. This often leaves me feeling lonely and isolated. I feel ashamed of the excuses I make to avoid social occasions or anything that might put me out of my comfort zone. I feel the need to be in control, so when anything outside of my power occurs I find it very hard to deal with, leading to feelings of panic. 

Ironically, while I want to be in complete control, the reality is that sometimes I’m not in control at all. I do everything to excess and lack the self-confidence to accept that I’ve done enough. Running a marathon doesn’t daunt me, but going to the pub with a group of people does. Every “fresh start” I’ve promised to make, whether that be at the transition from school to university, or simply a decision to challenge my restrictive behaviour in some way, has seemed to end in disappointment. So perhaps I ought to modify my original statement – I am a very successful 21-year-old in all things except for being kind to myself.

Being open helps

One thing which has made a huge positive difference is opening up to others about my situation. My tutor knows about my mental health difficulties and has been extremely supportive, guiding me through applying for alternative examination arrangements to make exams easier to cope with, working with the catering team to help me through my eating disorder, and generally being someone to talk to. For the first time, this academic year, I registered myself as having a disability with the university disability services. Through this, I have received a lot of advice and support, such as “check in” emails to make sure I am alright, and workshops to manage stress and depression. This has encouraged me to acknowledge my disability in my PhD application, ensuring that by the time I start there will be a support network in place. Over time, I have realised that I won’t be penalised for having a disability which isn’t necessarily visible. Being open about such matters can only help by ensuring that there are measures and people ready to help to guide me through the darkest times. I know recovery is a long process, that I won’t just wake up one day with the depression gone, but I also know that it is possible. I used to mourn the happy-go-lucky, smiley girl I was as a child, but now I know that she is still somewhere inside me, and maybe over time, with the right treatment, she will return. 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Meet our Fundraising Champions: Jessica

Fundraising Champion Jess writes about her experience as a fundraiser and why she decided to get involved with Student Minds. 
- Jessica Mell

My name is Jessica Mell and I am currently studying Nutrition and Public Health at Sheffield Hallam University. Like most people, my life has not exactly been the smooth ride that I hoped for, but I have not let that get in the way of pursuing the activities that I love such as travelling and spending treasured moments with friends and family. When I say that my life has not exactly been the smooth ride I hoped for, at that difficult time, I never anticipated that it would shape the career goals and personal ambitions that I find myself striving for today.

Why did you choose to become a fundraiser for Student Minds?
When I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa in January 2015, I did not think that the suffering I was going through would lead to such positive outcomes that I am benefitting from today. Some people like to forget about difficult moments in their life, which I can completely understand, but for me it has led to activities such as blogging about my eating disorder, founding Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds, volunteering for Healthwatch and now being a Fundraising Champion for Student Minds!

What do you enjoy the most about fundraising?
Fundraising has always been an activity I have enjoyed throughout my childhood. The idea of organising an event, bringing together communities and raising money for worthy charities in order for them to continue supporting those in need is something I find incredibly rewarding and worthwhile. Therefore, when I saw the opportunity to become a Fundraising Champion for Student Minds, I could not type out the application quick enough. I have used the charities online resources since starting university and have been overwhelmed by the support they have available- and I wanted to help them continue that fantastic work. 

How did you feel after your first fundraiser?
My first fundraiser as a Champion was taking part in Student Colour Run Sheffield 2017. It was so much fun! Although, I am still scrubbing my shower tray in my accommodation to remove the engrained purple tint! Receiving donations from my amazing friends and family to take part in the event and watching the funds creep up was so pleasing. It has given me the encouragement I need to organise another event that will encourage involvement from the public to ensure that everyone benefits from my fundraising activities and has a bit of fun! 
"Jess post Colour Run"

What are you planning on doing for your next fundraiser?
I am planning on hosting a Quiz Night at my local pub and possibly a coffee morning over the summer. Hopefully I will be sharing some successes in the near future!

What would your top tip be for someone who is thinking of fundraising for Student Minds?
My top tip for fundraising for Student Minds would be to share your passion for the organisation. If people know how much this charity means to you, they will support your events! But most of all enjoy it! Fundraising is such a great thing to do and develops so many skills- push your boundaries and get stuck in! 

Our Fundraising Champions are volunteers who actively fundraise for Student Minds, champion the importance of fundraising for student mental health and raise awareness. Find out more about our Fundraising Champions here.

Want to get involved with fundraising for Student Minds? Check out our page here.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

It's never Wednesday forever...

Sophie talks about the power of mindfulness, and remembering how important it is to take care of yourself, as well as others.
- Sophie Johnston

The dreaded second year, the notorious year of the mental breakdown. Better make that plural for me - I've already had countless! One of my lecturers perfectly described second year as "being stuck on a Wednesday", which in my book means it's not party time yet! 

Second year is like being caught in limbo – we’ve come so far, yet still have a long way to go. But no matter how long it may seem to take, the weekend always comes around eventually. 

Which brings me to thinking… Is it all in the mind? Is second year only tough because we’re told it is, and it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy?! Does second year have to be as bad as previous students make out? With that in mind I've spent the last few days pondering (and procrastinating) on this idea.

On placement I’m often told I’m a very calming person. I always make sure I’m engaged and smiley, because at the end of the day, who wants a sad or grumpy nurse looking after them? But it’s made me realise, I do tend to push myself to one side, pretending to be OK, when sometimes I'm not. 

After this dawned on me, I began to think about how I treat patients (procrastination continues). Cummings (2012) devised the 6C's of care, outlining the values nurses should display. I started to question - why am I limiting this to my patients? Care, Compassion, Commitment, Communication, Courage and Competence can all be applied, not only to my nursing life, but my personal life too. How can I fully care for a patient if I’m not taking care of myself? I’ve started, therefore, caring for my mental health.


 My tutor gave a lecture on mindfulness, allowing us ten minutes of meditation. I won’t lie; I was so against the idea. I’m stubborn, and was convinced that it wouldn’t be of any use. Reluctantly, I joined in. 

Not only did I love it, but I learnt an important lesson; give everything an open mind. As I write now, I'm a member of the meditation app Headspace, and I'm currently on day 46 reaping the benefits. Mindfulness also has a place in nursing. It’s made me calmer and able to handle stress in a productive way. Being aware of the present moment, focusing in on what you are doing and how you are feeling only benefits practice. 

Nowadays I find it easy to remember, it’s never Wednesday forever. Maybe some Wednesdays feel longer than others, but the weekend’s never far away. For anyone struggling through second year, recognise the steps you could take to make that week a little easier on yourself. It’s OK not to be OK - but you can do something about it, and that self-care can influence the care which you deliver.

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Fear of Relapse

Erin writes about the reality of relapses, and how they can actually be used to change your outlook on life.
- Erin Cadden

Relapsing, it’s a frightening one to comprehend. You don’t think it is possible at a time when things are good. After my last relapse, I didn’t think I could fall as low as I did, again.

One year ago, on May 1st, I had an episode in which I was hospitalised in a mental health facility. This was a turning point for me - a time when I knew I had to seek professional, long-term help.

I’ve struggled for the past 10 years or so with my mental health and my recovery is still ongoing. But only in the past year, after the relapse in May, have I been taking the right steps towards it. While it’s been a difficult journey, it’s also been life changing. I’ve participated in group therapy, private CBT, talking therapy, and hypnotherapy, as well as mentoring and reading self-help books, all to get to know how my brain works.

So I thought I was in a good, healthy place. I’d have my down days from time to time, but I sought comfort from friends and family in order to pull through. But this latest relapse was different.

About a week ago, feelings that haven’t surfaced for a long time came flooding back and my brain, at the time, didn’t seem strong enough to handle it. I tried to end my own life. The police were called and my mum drove over 40 minutes to my rescue. It’s upsetting, knowing that as I type this I feel remorse for that person who came so close to ending her suffering, because that was not the same Erin that is typing this today.

What’s scary about dark thoughts is that they can consume you. They can block out everything that is going on around you and can hone in on the negatives in your brain. At my time of despair, strangers surrounded me trying to help, but all I could hear were my own thoughts. I wish at that point in time, someone could have removed the dark cloud that was overshadowing me, because only then would I have been able to see the bright blue sky.

The greatest realisation from my recent relapse was that no one can help you as much as yourself. There was something inside of me that was determined not to let my self-destructive mind win. I have so much potential, ambition and determination for life. But in that split second, it could have all been lost. I’m not deceived; I know I’m still in recovery and may be for a long time. My journey has not finished yet. But I’m fighting that voice telling me to stay in bed, to ring in sick to work and to not face contact with society.

We need to realise the world is much greater than just our minds. What we’re told by our brains is just a spec in comparison to the extraordinary potential in the world. We can pull through at dark times, and while there’s no guarantee they won’t return again, each time we get stronger. Each time we learn a little more about how our brains work, and each time, recovery from painful relapses is that little bit easier. I’ve realised that ending pain and ending a life are two separate things. When the dark thoughts consume you, it might seem that ending a life is the only way to end the pain. This is not the case. There are many ways to relieve the pain of all mental illnesses. You just need to make that first step to getting help.

It’s important not to get caught up in the negative stigma surrounding mental health. I am not afraid nor embarrassed of it. No two brains are alike; people cope with and handle life in different ways, and this goes for treatment too. Some need a little more support, be that medication, mental health professionals or a simple shoulder to cry on.

Your mental health is a part of who you are. This isn’t always an easy thing to comprehend. After my relapses, I learnt that this mind, my mind, is what I’d been dealt with in life. I could either resist and live my life in pain, or accept and love myself. I am not resisting and fearing relapse. I am growing with it.

Help! Coping with exam stress - only one month until my first exam!

Abi writes about how best to live and work through the exam revision season when you've only got one month to go.
- Abi Bennetts

I stared at the date with horror when I woke up this morning: IT IS NOW ONLY ONE MONTH UNTIL MY FIRST EXAM. 
For most students, exam periods are the most stressful few weeks of the year. Whilst some pressure can motivate us to achieve the best we can, too much can cause severe stress and low mood, both during and beyond exam season.

Here are some tips to deal with stress throughout the exam period:

Look after your physical health 
If you’re already feeling anxious and overworked, eating poorly, not being active enough and not getting enough sleep will not make you feel any better, and will affect your performance in exams. Stay hydrated and try to eat as healthily as possible. Why don’t you spend an afternoon before a busy exam week batch-cooking healthy meals that you can refrigerate or freeze? Your body (and your mind) will thank you for it. Microwaving your nutritious meal after a long day at the library leaves you less tempted to buy ready meals and takeaway. 

Schedule in some time to get active. We all know exercise relieves stress. Plus, it lets your brain focus on something other than your module contents. While it’s tempting to spend revision breaks crawling into bed and catching up on TV, being active for an hour or two might do more to boost your energy levels. Whether it’s a gym session, a walk with friends, a swim, or a team sport, exercise will keep your mind and body energised, and make it easier to get those recommended 8 hours of sleep!

Keep in contact with friends and family
Exam season shouldn’t force you into five weeks of solitude. Keep in contact with your friends and family, as they are your biggest support network. My mum still receives a teary FaceTime every time I’ve got an upcoming deadline or exam, but I always feel better after voicing my concerns to her. Your friends are likely to feel just as stressed as you, so spending time with them sharing will often make you feel better. You could plan trips to the library together, or revision sessions at each other’s houses. If you revise better on your own, you could plan joints revision breaks for a walk, a film, or a (much needed) coffee. In my first year, all my friends and I would sync up our planned revision breaks, and congregate for tea and biscuits in one of the flats in our halls. Those tea breaks with everyone were the highlight of my days, and made life feel a little bit more normal. 

Be organised (and realistic)
Four weeks ago, I’d made a highly detailed revision plan, and expected to be completely on top of all my deadlines. Good intentions, right? But revision was delayed by my part-time job, time with friends and family at home, and a general feeling of ‘CBA’. It is essential to be organised to achieve exam success. However, it is important to be realistic whilst organising your revision plan. Some people may have a part-time job, sports practice, a doctor’s appointment, or a friend’s birthday. Your revision plan needs to fit around this. You also need to include planned, regular revision breaks, and some power naps/early nights. Figure out when you work most effectively: some people work better in the evening, and some are better in the mornings. Feeling more in control of what you’re learning and when you’ll learn it will help you feel more on top of your progress, and less stressed.

I wish everyone the best of luck in their exams. It’s so important to remember that exams aren’t everything. Exam results do not define you as a person. Employers won’t just look at exam scores and, for the sake of your mental health, they are not worth getting super stressed and low about. Remember to take care of yourselves (and your friends), and I’ll see you on the other side…..

For information on exam stress and studying click here.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Why did I run a marathon for Student Minds?

Ross writes about tackling the Brighton Marathon for Student Minds.
- Ross Munro

As a medical student, I am well aware of the plight of mental health but it wasn’t until I lost an old friend and fellow student that its importance struck me. Student Minds was introduced to me at his wake and after reading about the charity, I felt compelled to get involved. Consequently in April 2017, I ran the Brighton marathon for this innovative charity in an attempt to fulfil numerous goals. Some of my goals: 

Remember a good friend 
Training for a marathon presents you with the gift of time. I claim to be a ‘busy person’ but this is more of an excuse than a truth and marathon training sets aside hours of your week to contemplate life. Whilst training on the wet blustery Brighton coast no amount of company, music or radio podcasts can prevent your mind from wondering. In these moments of stress-free mental bliss my mind unintentionally homed in on my late friend. I thought about his love of music, passion for politics and fondness of science, I thought about the years we spent playing Pokemon, being generally uncool and how we didn’t care, I thought about school, parties and early memories, I thought about his endearment, loyalty and kindness, I thought about some of the happiest moments of my life. 

Whilst aimlessly jogging along the seafront, I realised how important it was to cherish these precious memories and to let them live on. Upon reflection, training for the marathon gave me the time and mental space to grieve and although I am sad that he is gone, revisiting these memories was a healthy experience and I enjoyed it. 

Evaluating and supporting my own mental health 
At school I was taught to regularly assess my scrotum for lumps in an attempt to catch testicular cancer early and this was good advice. However, reflecting on my own mental health was not once mentioned. This doesn’t add up when the incidence of testicular cancer is 1 in 2,200 and mental health affects everyone if not personally, then indirectly. Fortunately, I have since learnt that evaluating one’s own mental wellbeing is invaluable but unfortunately mindfulness, meditation, writing and so on has never worked for me. Running, I have recently learnt does! 

Running offers quiet reflection in addition to improved sleep, stress relief, positive mood changes, increased energy, weight management and greater concentration. I find the most useful benefits of running are mental distraction, social interaction and a sense of self efficacy.  All of these factors are beneficial for my mental health and I have since concluded that time spent running, is time well spent for me.

Promote mental health on the charitable stage 
Why is there any stigma surrounding mental health? I can only assume it represents the ugly hangover from a barbaric public health disaster in the 1900s. Surely it is now time for a new generation to break mental health conversations out of its shackles and bring it into the public limelight. I desperately want to be a part of this freethinking and cosmopolitan new era. 

I was so proud to wear my student minds vest whilst running the marathon and virtually euphoric every time I heard a spectator shout ‘go on student minds!’ The Brighton marathon was awash with worthy charities and it felt like a majestic celebration of altruistic spirit. My only personal regret was the distinct lack of runners supporting mental health charities. With the prevalence and arguably the impact of mental health illness similar if not greater to that of cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia, it is my wish that this eventually be reflected in the charitable sector. However, in order for this to happen the stigma has to go and with the advent of a new national mindset, I hope and believe we will get there. 

Training and completing the Brighton marathon in aid of student minds has been an enlightening, enjoyable and emotional experience. Despite setting out to help the mental health of others through fundraising, I would imagine in truth, I got more out of the last few months than anyone else. It is a pleasure to raise money for student minds, I believe their fruitful work amongst the student population is a shining example for the wider community. Let’s be the generation that conquers the taboo surrounding mental health for the benefit of everyone. 

Support Ross's hard work today by making a donation on his page. Interested in taking on a challenge yourself?  Find out more on our fundraising page

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Post-University Blues

With graduation fast approaching, Tess writes about the limbo you might find yourself in once university life is complete                                                                                                
 - Tess Schiller

This summer I graduated after three fantastic years at the University of Warwick. I met a load of wonderful people, took on challenges and came out with fantastic memories and a good degree to match. Then suddenly it was all over - and I was left with very little idea as to what my next steps might be. As with so many other graduates, my only option was to move back to my childhood home until I found my feet.
I went to a school where every single person was destined for uni and therefore every year, there was a mass exodus from Norwich, leaving a few gap year students behind. But this post-graduation period is an entirely different story. There’s no common ‘next step’ laid out for all of us. Everyone is finding their feet and going about it very much in our own ways. Varying experiences mean that suddenly we’re not in sync in a way that we once were.
I miss university a huge amount and there’s no sugarcoating it. Moving back home, you feel like you’ve regressed. I made such progress during my time at university, and returning to the way you once were often feels like you’re losing a part of yourself. But it’s also tough for people around you. They’ve got their own rhythm and suddenly you’re back, mourning over how you miss a rubbish SU night out with a terrible DJ who plays all the same tracks every week. How do you say ‘I miss that place’ without sounding like you’re implying that you hate where you are?
There’s nothing I can do about graduating or having to find a job or even facing the realities of living so far away from friends who used to be 10 minutes down the road. Those are all realities of life. But when my mum searched for more information about post-university depression she found just two articles on the subject. When I compare this to the countless number of friends who’ve expressed their struggles with leaving university, it seems bizarre that this isn’t better researched. Warwick have been more than happy to check up when it comes to employment, but I don’t really know of any university that has a clear support system for graduates.
Just because it’s something that we’re all going through doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done about that feeling. It doesn’t mean we have to ignore it or, in the most British way possible, joke about it over a beer on those scarce reunions with old pals. My coping methods have been going back into therapy and finding new hobbies and motivations. It’s also been about actively maintaining relationships so that I still have my support system even if they’re now a phone call rather than a short walk away.
It’s different for everyone but it shouldn’t be ignored. Applying for jobs and trying to find your feet can sometimes feel impossible when you’re reeling from a loss that you didn’t even expect.
The amazing thing about university is that it can be a time to learn how to deal with your mental illness. Charities like student minds can equip you with the tools you need to do that, and getting a hold of both short term and longer term coping mechanisms can make the post-graduation transition far less bumpy.

Despite still feeling lost and clueless there have been some really amazing things that have happened to me over these past few months - like moving out of my childhood home and into a flat with my boyfriend. Creating something of my own has brought a level of stability to my life and made me feel settled and motivated again. Yes there's uncertainty - but I'm looking forward to what the future has in store for me.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Suffering In Silence

Chloe talks about her ongoing battle with anxiety and the importance of accepting help.

I realised recently that I have huge anxiety. I came to that conclusion when I left the house earlier today and freaked out so decided to return home. I find it difficult to leave my house unless I am seeing a close friend (I only have a selective number of close friends none of which are in Cambridge) or if my boyfriend comes to visit me. Other than that I can't leave my house. Not even for uni! I barely leave for my work and for other friends. I have suffered from depression for a while now ever since I was a kid. It made me a shy and unconfident person; however by the time I got to sixth form I thought I had finally mastered it as I became outspoken and optimistic. I was able to do public speaking being a part of debate club and sing in a band… until I lost someone dear to me before starting university in 2015 which didn't affect me till later on.

I struggled a lot last year and I have gotten worse. I started off my second year strong but as soon as second semester hit I stopped going to uni, my social clubs and barely talked to anyone. I felt the most comfortable talking on social media which gave me an excuse to stay at home. I know I am behind but I still can't manage to leave my room. I worked so hard to get where I am but nothing seems to be motivating me. I debated quitting university so many times and I still am. I know I had to contact someone so I emailed the head of my course to try and set up a meeting but once again I got cold feet; I called him and explained what happened and he promised to get me help and also contact my lecturers, so at the moment I am still in a continuous loop until I breakout.

That's it, I don't have a happy ending right now but I am getting help and you can too. Last month I went in for a counselling consultation, the head of my course is looking into. If you are struggling with mental illness contact someone whether it's your friends, parents or teachers because now I know I can get better, I just need to believe in myself. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days Sober

Andrew writes about his year of sobriety and his desire to break down mental health stigma.
- Andrew Morbey

On Sunday 16th of April I celebrated not only my late fathers’ birthday, but a year of sobriety. A day that will always hold a special place in my heart. A year ago, I made the decision to take time away from alcohol and sort out my mental health. I’m not here to rant about why drinking is bad. I only want to share my experiences on what became another defining ‘fork in the road’ and an exciting period of my life and what lead me to stop drinking.

Being a social person, I would never shy away from having a beer with friends at the pub, meeting friends at university for lunch which would then turn into a night out in town and skipping lectures. My issue was that I never had an ‘off’ switch and didn’t understand how to control the amount I would drink. I always gave into the temptation of drinking during the week and on the weekend, telling myself, “I am fine, I’m just having fun with friends.” But it was a continuous cycle of pretending it wasn’t an issue. After I failed two subjects at university, you would think that would be a natural wake-up call to get on top of my drinking, I continually ignored the warning signs.

I became scared of my drinking habits as I began spiralling out of control, waking up feeling so much hate towards myself, finding out about various events from the night before. Having only slight memories of doing these things to myself, I would tell myself, “it was only a one off, it won’t happen again” and hide the evidence. The cycle had to be broken. 

However, since that night I have graduated, moved to a new country, found a job, celebrated weddings and engagements (not mine); I have laughed & cried and continued to make friends all over the world. You really start seeing who your real friends are when you begin saying no to alcohol and they buy you a lemonade as part of their round. I have met some pretty amazing people this last year, people who have taken an interest and supported me, who have not judged or walked away. And there is, of course, my support group of friends and family who from day one may have joked I couldn’t last a week, but when they realised I was serious about it, constantly made sure I didn’t have an alcoholic drink in my hand and ‘tested’ my drink to make sure I wasn’t cheating.

Now I feel more confident in myself- nothing says that more than closing your eyes on the dancefloor, ignoring the world and just letting loose- in both my new job and out on a weekend. I don’t feel the need to drink to break down awkward social barriers anymore, but instead I enjoy ‘people watching’ and appreciating the company around me.  There is of course the bad day where my depression is winning, but it has no match on my love for sport, exercise and chocolate.

There are so many more things I want to share, but the main thing I learned over these past 12 months is that it’s okay to not be okay. Just because you struggle with mental health doesn’t make you an outsider, it makes you unique and gives you a special outlook on life and a new appreciation that others don’t see.

So the next 365 days will include working at my new job, joining a rugby club, being social and meeting up with friends and maybe even bond over a beer. Hopefully I have matured enough to start respecting my mental health and knowing when to say “its bed time”.

I am a twenty-five-year-old Aussie bloke chasing my dream of living in the UK. After buying my one-way ticket and making the big move, I came into contact with Student Minds through a mental health charity in Australia called Batyr. I applied for their Fundraising Champions initiative earlier this year, and when I was elected, my head filled up with ideas on how I can help break down this mental health stigma. I wanted to start by sharing my story with Student Minds and the extended mental health community.

Find out more about what the amazing fundraising champions are up to and donate here.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Meet our Fundraising Champions: Katherine

Fundraising Champion Katherine writes about her experience as a fundraiser and why she decided to get involved with Student Minds. 
-Katherine Hockley

My name is Katherine Hockley and I currently work as a Digital Content Designer for CoSector – University of London. This involves creating design for marketing collateral, as well as editing the blog, running Twitter sites, creating video, and interacting with the many different departments within the organisation.

Why did you choose to become a fundraiser for Student Minds?
Student Minds gave a presentation in the All Staff Meeting at the University of London and I was moved by the cause having suffered with depression at university myself. I signed up with another colleague to do the stair climb, which you can read about here. (In short – my legs hurt). I then saw that they were looking for volunteer fundraisers and thought – why not me? It’s a cause I care about and I have several ways that I can help the charity, be it writing, raising the charity’s profile or organising work events to raise money.

What do you enjoy the most about fundraising?
The things I enjoy most about fundraising is that I know I am contributing towards a great cause. It’s always good to challenge yourself as well, so I know I’ve not just spent my free time watching the same shows over and over again on Netflix.

How did you feel after your first fundraiser?
After my first fundraiser I felt great, if not sweaty and very, very out of breathe. It was a physical challenge climbing all those flights of stairs but worth it to know that I’d achieved something for Student Minds. I empathise with the message the charity is trying to get across and I was just glad I could help in any way I could. It also meant I could have the ‘Lambshank redemption’ burger immediately after as one hell of a punny reward.

What are you planning on doing for your next fundraiser?
I plan on running a bake sale as my next charity event, as it is easy to arrange but is something everyone can get on board with (who doesn’t like cake?). I have control of the internal newsletter, so I'll be making sure I slip that information in...

What would your top tip be for someone who is thinking of fundraising for Student Minds?
My top tip for anyone who is thinking of fundraising for Student Minds is to just do it, and don’t be scared that you’re oversharing your fundraising page. Spam away! Ask friends if they're interested and then you'll get more donations as well are more morale support. It's a great charity and one that's definitely worth your time, so go ahead!

"Katherine post Broadgate Tower Stair Climb"
Our Fundraising Champions are volunteers who actively fundraise for Student Minds, champion the importance of fundraising for student mental health and raise awareness. Find out more about our Fundraising Champions here.

Want to get involved with fundraising for Student Minds? Check out our page here.