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Students are at higher risk of developing mental health problems with research showing many people first experience mental health problems or first seek help when they are at university. Some may already be living with an existing mental health problem and be receiving help and support for this. As you transition to life as a student you may find that your support changes location or you transition from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to adult services. It is important to continue your support if needed and become familiar with what this will look like for you as a student.

Here we talk to Oriana from University of Surrey Students’ Union to find out what support is available on campus.

The Support Zone is one of five zones that lead the Union, and it consists of me, the elected Vice-President Support, the five part-time unpaid elected officers, and three full-time members of staff. The Vice-President Support is a sabbatical officer working full-time to accomplish their manifesto based on which they were voted into the position, to represent student interest in matters of Wellbeing and Welfare and to support the part-time officers in accomplishing their manifestos. The full-time staff support the elected officers but also offer academic, housing and money advice to students. The Union and the zone are independent from the University and can provide unbiased advice to students facing disciplinary panels, have had their extenuating circumstances rejected, and other academic issues.

The Zone also leads the Union support services, Surrey Nightline, Student Minds, Welfare Watch, and Wellbeing Champions. Nightline is the Union’s confidential, anonymous listening service run by students for students, available 7pm to 7am from Monday evening until Saturday morning during term time. They offer phone calls, email, and instant messaging. Student Mind is the UK’s student mental health charity and have created different peer support groups, two of which are run at Surrey. Positive Minds is a 6-week programme for students experiencing low mood, loneliness, or depression whilst at university. The group is led by trained students and offers a non-judgemental, safe, and confidential space. Motivate Me (otherwise known as Eating Difficulties Support Group) is similarly structured to Positive Minds but it is around providing support to students experiencing difficulties around food and eating. Welfare Watch is open during our popular nightclub nights and the volunteers are there to help students sober up in a safe environment and help them get home safely. Lastly, Wellbeing Champions are trained committee members that each society and club have to provide support to their members and signpost them to the appropriate services.

The Union and the University work together to provide support to students, such as with our trained members of staff who act as Sexual Violence Liaison Officers. The SVLOs can listen empathetically and non-judgementally and they provide a safe space to talk through one’s options about where to get the right support. The security team on campus are here 24/7 to ensure everyone is safe at Surrey. The Centre for Wellbeing on campus also offers an on-call mental health nurse available to deal with any mental health crisis situations in between 8:30am-5:30pm. The centre also offers counselling to students in non-crisis situations and has specialist counsellors who can help students with situations such as trauma, bereavement, and others. The University also offers the disability and neurodiversity team at the University. The team will support any student who has specific learning differences, a physical disability, those with diagnosed mental health difficulties, long-term health conditions, autism, and sensory difficulties. The University also runs a peer support service available to students who live on campus but also to all students online. They provide students with support and guidance from a student’s perspective and signpost to other services across the University and the wider community. The residential life team, which replaced our previous warden system, are also there to support and help students on campus 24/7. They can help students that are struggling to get along with flatmates, that are struggling with their course, and they are also able to signpost to other relevant services.

We are very proud of the community we have here at Surrey and one of the reasons is the on-going support we offer students. I believe it is one of the reasons that places the Union and the University high in surveys such as the National Student Survey and Pulse Survey. We believe that our students’ mental health should be a priority, and we care! I’ll leave you with a tip from me, that might sound bizarre, but book in your calendar ‘you’ time. No matter how busy you are, use that time to do something you enjoy, to be with people that you love, or, to just do nothing!