Combatting loneliness through our Winter Wellbeing campaign
For University Mental Health Day (3rd March), Jenny Dalzell – Student Support Manager at Unite Students – shares some insights from our recent Winter Wellbeing campaign to combat loneliness.
Loneliness can be a real issue for students, particularly in the second term of their first year. In January, my colleague Kerry wrote an article about the impact of loneliness on students and our commitment to breaking down the stigma around it, including running a ‘Winter Wellbeing’ campaign to tackle this issue.
We see students approaching our team members at times of loneliness or when they feel lack of social interaction; this is something that was particularly prevalent during Covid restrictions, but it continues to be an ongoing issue. For those who do reach out to our accommodation teams, there are ways that we can help. This could include encouraging attendance at events in the property, sharing information about university societies and clubs, or exploring a potential flat move to meet other like-minded students.
We also offer paid opportunities to become resident ambassadors, which helps students to shape and be an active part of their community. Importantly, we encourage our staff to always listen to students and actively engage with them; we know this can make all the difference. But we understand we can always do more to also reach those students who do not, for various reasons, feel comfortable about speaking to a team member – or perhaps anyone else – about how they are feeling.
Our ‘Winter Wellbeing’ campaign against loneliness
One way we have tried to encourage students to socialise and seek support is through our ‘Winter Wellbeing’ campaign, which launched in mid-January and ran for a month. This is a time when we see a spike in wellbeing-related disclosures or incidents in our properties, and we recognise that settling back into term two can be tough.
The campaign was targeted at combatting loneliness and broader winter blues, and included the following components:
- A national wellbeing e-newsletter to all residents: This included advice on financial wellbeing, signposting information to support services, and links to further resources on our student-facing blog, The Common Room – which you can read about here.
- Student-led wellbeing and loneliness content on The Common Room: Targeted student-written blogs including ‘Alone time is okay’ and ‘How I dealt with loneliness at university’ were published during the campaign.
- Delivery of ‘Look After Your Mate’ workshops: Delivered by trained members of staff, these workshops teach students to look out for wellbeing warning signs in others, practical tips for providing support and signposting to support services, as well as looking after their own wellbeing in the process. These workshops have been delivered in our properties nationwide; you can learn more from our November blog.
- Local events and activities to encourage students to interact: There’s a vibrant, student-led events programme in all our cities, but specific activities to support the campaign included encouraging bullet journaling (Sheffield), macramé workshops (Manchester), and the launch of ‘Communi-Tea’ – a monthly wellbeing leaflet including wellbeing support and signposting, distributed to students with a free bag of tea (Edinburgh).
It’s important that we support our teams who support the students that live with us, and so we have also provided advice and professional, confidential support where required to our employees, in order to safeguard their mental health.
University Mental Health Day
As an organisation, we support the sector in making mental health a university-wide priority. We work closely with our higher education partners in encouraging students to access services and building strong, joined-up responses to wellbeing concerns raised in our properties.
We believe that no student should ever have to feel alone with their mental health and actively encourage them to seek support; should they wish to speak to somebody in their building, they are able to contact us 24/7. We will be supporting University Mental Health Day by continuing the work outlined above and sharing important content across our social media channels, such as student Blessing’s mental health advice tips.
If you’re struggling, don’t suffer in silence – there are organisations out there that can help you in complete confidence including Mind and Samaritans. Where wellbeing concerns involve your work, reach out to your line manager or HR team.