Student Wellbeing Champion, Gemma, writes about her experience volunteering for the project.
Who are the Wellbeing Champions?
Wellbeing Champions are a group of students who volunteer within the University of Hull Student Wellbeing, Learning and Welfare Support services. The purpose of the Wellbeing Champions is to raise awareness about the student services that are available, to increase knowledge on emotional wellbeing and to signpost students to the relevant services that they might need.
What made you want to become a wellbeing champion?
As a psychology student, I was immediately attracted to the role of Student Wellbeing Champion. I already felt passionate about combating the stigma and myths attached to mental health and so this opportunity offered me a platform to engage in this problem. When I discovered that the role required promotional work, whilst also offering support to potentially distressed students, I loved the idea more and had to apply.
I felt that I’d be able to make a valuable contribution to the cause, especially since I had previously engaged in multiple services within Student Central. These included: learning difficulty support, emotional wellbeing and physical disability support. Because of this, I recognised the importance of making more people aware about the services that rested right on their doorstep.
Finally, I have been out of work for seven years, but wanted to gain some work experience to prepare myself for future endeavors. The Wellbeing Champion role enabled me to volunteer whilst studying. It is a completely flexible prospect that works alongside my other responsibilities, allowing me to gage my involvement based on my personal and academic obligations.
Your role as a wellbeing champion so far
Upon finishing the Wellbeing Champion training, the other champions and I immediately took an active role in the project. The first port of call was to show off our orange Wellbeing Champion t-shirts by attending Welcome Week. In doing so, we began by guiding new students (and parents!) to various locations around the campus that they required. New students welcomed a friendly face and were very appreciative to have a leading ‘hand’. During each encounter, I introduced students to these marvelous orange t-shirts; it went something like this:
“If you need any help, the Wellbeing Champions can be spotted around campus wearing orange t-shirts. If you need to talk, feel free to grab one of us. It could be home sickness, anxiety or maybe you just need a friendly ear and want a quick chin-wag over a cuppa. We can also signpost you to the University’s student services.”
As the months went on, I participated in a range of activities. I met with several student friends to support them through potentially difficult times; some wanting help from the university and others just needing a friend to listen. We would have a casual chat and if needed, approach the appropriate departments within the university; subject departments for mitigating circumstances inquiries or the AskHU desk for wellbeing advice from the professionals.
In-between these meetings, the champions would work together on organised events. We’d get an email saying “there’s an awareness week we’d like to be a part of” and we’d all pull together to produce ideas on how we’d all like to raise awareness. For example, some Champions attended Stress Awareness Week handing out leaflets with advice on stress management and asking other students to write how they manage their own stress on post-it notes around the student union. Whilst other Champions attended Time to Talk events alongside the Mental Health Awareness Society and HUU, having a hot drink and a chat.
The variation in this role is just about endless! I was involved with a speed-dating event hosted by the Student Engagement Officers. My role here was to participate in educating PASS leaders about the wellbeing services that are available and how the Wellbeing Champions can help other students.
What have you gained from becoming a Wellbeing Champion?
You really do get out what you put into the Wellbeing Champion role. I feel more confident having dipped my toes back into work and my anxiety around working has reduced. However, the biggest gain, from my point of view, is the feeling of knowing that I helped someone today and that I have made a difference (even if it is a little difference). As an individualistic society, we do not willing help enough people. The moment that gave me the warmest feeling happened when a friend I was supporting turned to support ME through a difficult time. All the times I’d sent a message to her saying “Would you like to meet for a chat?” one day I got the same message back– and that is an absolutely awesome feeling; (1) in knowing that someone cares, but (2) in knowing that your own actions have led to others altruistically offering their ear to their peers too.
What would you say to anyone else wanting to get involved in the project.
If you want to learn about the issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing whilst also making a difference, then get involved. Feedback from the services has suggested that the Wellbeing Champion role really is working as more students are now aware of the utilities within Student Central. Maybe you can visualise yourself in the role. Maybe something I have written has given you a light-bulb moment and you have had an idea that you can contribute to the project. Maybe you’d like to learn more about the warning signs for emotional distress in order to help your own friends.
Remember, you don’t have to conquer the world to be involved. It’s about helping those around you; your peers.
If you would like more information about the Student Wellbeing Champion project, please contact the Health and Wellbeing team at the University of Hull via firstname.lastname@example.org