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Guest blog: Ruth Cooper-Dickson on maintaining positive student wellbeing

The excitement of Fresher’s week is over and the new term in full swing. Over 400,000 UK students have transitioned into a new life away from home and are beginning to navigate a very different routine. As students commence on this journey they may need additional support for their mental wellbeing, some more so than others. We all operate on a continuum of mental health. Therefore, it is important to recognise a change in lifestyle will impact on most students, but at varying degrees.

Taking into account that statistics show one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem per year, it is evident that over 100,000 students will need an element of support. Students face challenges of higher education studies, new friendships and the pressure of being accepted into a new environment. It is not surprising the stress of studying is a key area in which students struggle, with almost six in 10 reporting that this made it difficult for them to cope.

In the workplace, employers are recognising the need for a holistic approach to mental wellbeing for their employees; suitable policy and processes, preventative and awareness initiatives and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. Some universities are approaching student mental wellbeing in the same manner. Enabling students to access a toolbox of helpful coping strategies. Students can find what positively works for them and build on these tools as they evolve into adulthood and post university life.

Last summer I spent two months volunteering for an NGO in Brazil, with both UK and international university students. On my return, my consultancy conducted a short survey to find out their views on mental health awareness at their respective universities. 68% had not attended a talk of any description on mental wellbeing, but felt it would be important and beneficial to do so. The highly-rated topics of interest for the students were both mental health awareness and stress management.

Stress management, mental health awareness and understanding how to increase our positive wellbeing, are the main areas we as a consultancy get asked to support both academic institutions and workplaces.

Over the past two years Champs has been partnering with secondary schools to support female students discuss self-esteem, positive wellbeing and stress-management. This workshop was linked into the #ThisGirlCan campaign through Sport England, recognising that being active is one of the key pillars to sustaining positive wellbeing. These sessions have now branched out further; in 2018 we are excited to deliver wellbeing talks combining a focus on physically being active but also creating mental activity through mindfulness. These sessions are for both male and female teenage students, providing them with tools to dip into during the hot spot areas of the academic year, such as exam time.

As we are aware from our own individual experiences, it is often once we have become so stressed that we try to create a balance much needed before things come to a head. If we suddenly decide to go to the gym, we wonder why it does not help. Or, dip into a mindfulness app and wonder why it is not working and we cannot quieten our mind. When what we should have been doing is building these helpful coping strategies as daily habits, and finding out what works best for us before hitting the wall of stress. Of course, we cannot mitigate for every unexpected life event, but we know when we are likely to become overwhelmed by what is happening in our routine daily lives. For student’s, this will be ensuring revision and exam times are prepared for well in advance, by maximising helpful coping strategies already adopted.

Our most popular keynote workshop is Stress-Free Living, which is adaptable for student university life. The workshop focuses on understanding stress, what our capacity to deal with stress looks like and identifying both our unhelpful and unhelpful coping strategies.

Earlier this year we ran several sessions for the staff and academics at London South Bank University for their Wellbeing Activity Day.

We would be delighted to partner with universities at the start of 2018, by offering support to your students' journey of wellbeing. Through our bespoke workshops on stress management; keynote talks on wellbeing, and Mental Health First Aid Training we will facilitate the skills needed by staff and students. Please contact us for an informal chat to see how we can help.

Ruth Cooper-Dickson is a dynamic mental wellbeing specialist with a global career in business and talent operations. She is a practicing mental health first aider and has lived experience of dealing with a mental health condition. A thought leader on mental wellbeing at work, Ruth hosts wellbeing events, delivers keynote talks and designs training solutions. Ruth is passionate about how we enable people to live their best version of a happy and stress-free life. A former exercise instructor and runner, Ruth is an advocate for how regularly being active increases our overall positive mental health.


The ProtectED Code of Practice Student Wellbeing and Mental Health measures require member universities to ensure that all staff and students with defined pastoral roles receive mandatory mental health training (2.6.2) and that good wellbeing and mental health is promoted to students at key points throughout the year, such as Christmas and exam periods.

The views and opinions expressed by authors of Guest Blog posts and by those providing comments do not necessarily reflect those of ProtectED. Information on products or services is provided “as is” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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