Wednesday, 29 October 2014

"The Outing” by LAYM competition winner Aisling Lewis

As part of our Look After Your Mate campaign, we held a creative writing competition on the theme of ‘friendship’ in partnership with The Student Wordsmith. This is the third and last of our winning entries, a short story called "The Outing" by Aisling Lewis. Thanks to everybody who entered the competition! We hope readers will be inspired to think and write about their own experiences of supporting a friend. 

The Outing

by Aisling Lewis

‘The strangest thing happened to me yesterday.’
‘Go on.’
‘Well, someone I met on Saturday night phoned me to ask me out for a drink.’
‘I know! I didn’t know what to do.’
‘Wow. I don’t remember the last time anyone who wasn’t my mum, or you, called me. Red or white?’

Surveying the restaurant Kate noticed how busy it was for a Wednesday and assumed that everyone else probably had the Vouchercloud app too. There was an elderly couple a few tables away who were sitting next to each other as opposed to opposite. Kate couldn’t work out if this was a wonderful gesture of enduring romance, or miscommunication and stubbornness.

While Alice examined the menu Kate observed the d├ęcor. On the wall behind Alice was a black and white canvas print of Big Ben. Next to that was a poster of a Samuel Johnson quote about being tired.

‘There’s a girl over there wearing an incredible dress. Blonde hair. Quick, she’s looking at her menu, turn around, quick!’

Kate span herself around.

‘Bit much for this place, isn’t it? She must be on a date.’
‘You know, I thought she was that girl you used to hang about with before you went... away’

Alice’s head was turned down into her menu but both could feel her awkwardness.

‘That’s it. She looks a bit like her, don’tcha think?’ Kate didn’t bother turning around to look again.
‘Not really.’
‘Have you heard from her... since? Or, you know, recently?’
‘Oh. I wonder what she’s doing now.’
‘Use your imagination.’

Both waited for this cloud of clumsiness to pass.

The wall was painted a deep maroon colour, some years ago, and beneath the loud murmur of chatter and the clinks of crockery, Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know could be heard in the background. To their right was a young couple with enough Topshop bags at their feet to explain the lack of conversation at the table.

Alice discreetly checked her watch. ‘Did I tell you that a girl I work with has just moved into a place on the road we were looking at?’
‘She’s living on her own though. I couldn’t do that’.
‘Because you can’t take the tops off your eggs?’
‘Exactly! And who would fake tan my back?’ They exchanged wide grins, long overdue. ‘Right’. Releasing her fingers Alice announced that she would be ordering the ‘Bruschetta, risotto and the house red.’
‘Lovely. Should I have the avocado salad, or, the burger?’
‘Burger. Definitely.’

Aisling has recently finished an MA in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. During this time she developed a narrative of historical fiction set in World War Two Britain which she hopes to turn into a novella. At 23 she is yet unable to drive, but rather impressively, can recite by heart, the whole of David Bowie's Jean Genie. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

How to run a Comedy Evening Fundraiser - Sheffield

Wondering how to fundraise for Student Minds but don't know what kind of event to run? Do you enjoy putting on events that involve humans? Do you like humour? Sheffield recently ran a comedy evening in collaboration with the politics society, and raised a huge amount of money. We interviewed them about their experience!

Sheffield, tells us the who/what/where/when!

The Mental Health Matters Society organised a comedy evening (Stand Up For Mental Health) in collaboration with the Politics Society at the University. The evening was held in an upstairs bar at the local vodka revolution. It went on from 8pm to 10pm and included the University comedy society as well as two other comedians we found on a website.

How do you think it went?

We have had a lot of positive feedback from the evening! We included references to mental health on the publicity we distributed and began by discussing mental health stigma and how important it is to go fight it. We also managed to raise over £500, which we were really pleased about.

What do you think went well?

It was great to collaborate with another society, as this meant we had help with publicity and made it easier to organise. We had buckets present on the evening which was really helpful for raising money. For publicity we contacted the University and managed to get the event advertised on the University Website which was really helpful. Finally, we did leafleting throughout the week leading up to the evening.

What do you think could have made it better?

We had a few issues with the venue, I would recommend going to look around before hand.

I would also recommend making sure to be prepared that when working with comedians there is a chance that they won't be able to make it at the last moment!

On the whole, though, it was a really enjoyable event and also was really great for helping to get more people of our society and talking about mental health.

We hope this has inspired you with ideas for future Student Minds events! Remember, if you want to tell us about an event you've run, you can fill in our events form here!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

"A Friend, in Two Parts” by LAYM competition winner Rose Walker

As part of our Look After Your Mate campaign, we held a creative writing competition on the theme of ‘friendship’ in partnership with The Student Wordsmith. This is the second of our winning entries, a poem called "A Friend, in Two Parts" by Rose Walker.

A Friend, in Two Parts

by Rose Walker

When I started uni, my mind was set.
I was starting again, brand-new and fresh!

I didn’t need to tell every person I met
that sometimes I get down –
sad, even

Instead, I wanted to the follow the packs, the herds,
and for them to think I was totally cheery.
Who wants a friend that constantly seems dreary?!

But you, you were different – cool and kind, and
I made you laugh (I really tried)
because I wanted you at my side.

Gradually I began to hint
in just the briefest of words
that sometimes, but not always, I found things hard.
That I’d overdosed,
just the year before,
that the pain of the memory was still pretty raw.

Yet now, when life gets tough, again,
you hold me up. With
late night food and Skype, phone calls and hugs,
your prescription worked better than any drug.

You didn’t shy away, ignore me, or run, and
You help me to realised that life is still fun.
You held my hand when I’d given up hope, and
you gave me the jolt that helped me to cope.

Beyond all, you’re my blessing, and
a prayer.
My steadfast conviction is
that life can be fair.

Rose Walker is a final year university student who is passionate about both writing and mental health. She describes this competition as a ‘dream to be involved in’ as a result of this and suggests that the more we talk about mental illness, the more we realise how common it is. It is nothing to be afraid of.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

How to run a freshers' week stall - what Cardiff Student Minds learnt

Stuck for ideas on how to attract volunteers at the freshers' fair? We interviewed Cardiff Student Minds about their experience running a stall, asked about their successes, and found out what could have made the event even better.

So, Cardiff, what was on the stall?

We held 4 stalls; 1 at Cardiff Met, 1 at Cardiff University Cathays Campus, 1 at Cardiff University Heath Campus and 1 at Cardiff's volunteering fayre. We gave out keyrings, pens, information booklets and business cards. We had a fancy dress photo booth, and a '#look after your mate' sign to use in photos. We also ran a prize draw - everyone who liked our Facebook page, followed us on Twitter and signed up to our mailing list was entered into a draw to win some prizes!

Did you get a lot of sign-ups?

During Fresher's week we have had 193 students sign up to our mailing list, over 70 new Facebook likes and over 30 new Twitter followers. We have also had a lot of interest from students who are keen to help out with our events and campaigns, so we have set up a Cardiff volunteers Facebook group which has almost 50 students in. Our Facebook photo album '#lookafteryourmate snaps' reached 481 people and had 378 post clicks.

What do you think went well?

We found that taking photos with the #look after your mate sign worked extremely well, as students having their photo taken asked what it was all about, so it was a good way of starting a conversation about the campaign.

Having some freebies to give out was also successful, as it was a good way to get students interested in our stall, and talking to our volunteers about what Student Minds is all about.

What do you think could have made it better?

We found that the fancy dress aspect of the photo booth didn't work very well, so in the end we just took pictures with the #lookafteryourmate sign. Also, we started taking the mailing list by hand, but we quickly realised it was difficult to read some students' handwriting, so in later stalls we then used a laptop.

Any pictures of the event?


Cardiff Student Minds Freshers' Fayre Stall #Lookafteryourmate Cardiff#Lookafteryourmate Cardiff#Lookafteryourmate CardiffCardiff Student Minds Freshers' Fayre Stall    #Lookafteryourmate Cardiff#Lookafteryourmate Cardiff

We hope this has inspired you with ideas for future Student Minds events! Remember, if you want to tell us about an event you've run, you can fill in our internal feedback form through the internal section of the website.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Part II of “The Cat’s Out of the Bag…” by LAYM competition winnerLizzie Akass

As part of our Look After Your Mate campaign, we held a creative writing competition on the theme of ‘friendship’ in partnership with The Student Wordsmith. We're delighted to release the first of our winning entries, a short story called "The Cat's Out of the Bag..." by Lizzie Akass from Loughborough University, the second part of which is below.

Part 2 of ‘The Cat’s Out of the Bag...’

by Lizzie Akass

‘Robin Hood?’

‘Wrong. We’re watching Tangled.’

‘Brilliant. Thanks for asking.’

‘It’s only polite, you are my guest.’

She puts it in and we sit quietly for a few minutes as the story is introduced.

‘The guy in this is beautiful.’


‘Is it weird to find a cartoon attractive?’

‘Nope. Everyone does, nobody talks about it.’

‘They should.’

‘Indeed. So are you adding Flynn Rider to your list of acceptable men?’

‘It’s Eugine Fitzherbert, you uneducated swine.’

‘Toy Story reference, I approve.’

‘Thank you.’

‘You’re most welcome.’

‘Have you got a placement yet?’

‘No, still applying, you?’

‘Still waiting to hear back, I’ve applied to like, twenty places though so I keep

checking my e-mail.’

‘Well how long ago did you apply?’

‘This morning.’

‘Oh, maybe relax on checking your inbox for the time being then.’

‘I know, but what if nowhere accepts me?’

‘Then you’ll have to add an imaginary dog shelter to your list to drown your sorrows

‘Nah, you’ll definitely get a place so I’ll just sneak along with you.’

‘I’m sure they’d never notice.’

‘I am very sneaky.’

‘You are.’

‘I like that they give Rapunzel buck teeth. They’re beginning to make the Disney girls

look more normal.’

‘Well, she’s still pretty perfect.’

‘I know. I hate her.’

‘Don’t be stupid.’

‘Nah she’s a nice kid, she knows I love her really.’

‘Wait, she’s only turning eighteen?’

‘Oh my god, when did we become old?’

‘Most of the Disney girls are only, like, sixteen or something ridiculous.’

‘You know you’re getting really old when you start agreeing with the parents in kid’s


‘It’s kinda sad really.’

‘It’s OK. Zac will always choose to hang out with us, we’re not afraid of ice cream.’

‘Have you ordered the pizza yet?’


‘How long ago?’

‘Timone’s hula dance.’

‘Brilliant, should be here soon then. And you got-’

‘Yes, I got you stuffed crust, pineapple and tuna, but no olives because you think

they’re too fancy for take away pizza, and only seem right when you’re actually having them

on pizza in Italy.’

‘You’re amazing.’

‘I am the best.’

‘You are.’ She grins at me and then starts to look sad, ‘I do miss Dave.’

‘No. None of that. Pause the film. We’re having a spontaneous dance party to

Beyonce. The most independent woman in the world.’

‘She is married though.’

‘My argument still stands. She’s fabulous, get up.’

A smile creeps across her face, ‘Hold on, I’m getting your cat.’

September 2014

Lizzie Akass
Lizzie Akass is an undergraduate English student at Loughborough University. She loves writing both short stories and novels, and has recently had her short story, 'Cambodia', published through The Story Graph, loosely based on her own travelling experiences through South-East Asia.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

ReCover - Editor's Note

- Sophie North, Editor of ReCover

Student Minds is a charity that aims to work with and for students, providing the time, space and resources to help people start talking about student mental health in a safe, supportive environment. We work with student volunteers up and down the country to campaign for more focus to be put on student mental health, and help students to set up and run open access support groups at their universities, providing informal peer-to-peer support when students need it. We think that encouraging students to talk to their peers is a positive thing, that conversation helps to break down stigma. Moreover, we believe that talking changes lives.

Developing ReCover is an extension of this belief; it provides us with a platform to keep both students and volunteers up to date with news, developments and musings in the field of mental health. We hope that ReCover will be able to inform a wider audience about the work that we are doing with students and universities across the country.

As ever, special mention goes to all of our contributors for their thoughts and their enthusiasm. Without their time and effort, ReCover could not happen.

If you’ve not yet read the first issue of ReCover, then you can read it here! We’re really proud of the first two issues, but we need your help to keep ReCover going. If you’re interested in writing something for the third issue, please do get in touch via email:

For now, I’ll let you get reading. But before I do, I’ll say this: please get in touch via Facebook or Twitter with your thoughts – we love to hear them! And keep an eye on our social media sites for exciting Student Minds updates and events.

Happy reading!


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hope in the darkest of places

- Caroline Adlam, Group facilitator at Student Minds Nottingham

I am one of five group facilitators for Student Minds Nottingham, who are running a structured support group for students. We're focusing on building a support network, eating, sleeping and exercising well and finding coping strategies that work for you. But more than that, we want to create a safe, confidential space where people can talk about mental health freely, with other people who get it. A place for conversation, a place for silence, a place for healing, a place for battling and a place for life and all the topsy-turviness that comes with it.

I feel a huge responsibility. Not for people, but to people. A responsibility to be the best that we can be. If by being here we slightly improved the wellbeing of one student, then that would make the whole thing more than worth it.

But I have a vision to reach every student here that is hurting. I remember this when eyes gloss over as I say the word "depression". People turn their heads away slightly or look down to avoid my gaze. I don't mind. I am so privileged to be standing here doing this, giving out leaflets about our service. I know that hurting people are not always recognisable from the outside. Sometimes they are the ones who plaster on a smile, or the ones who never meet your eye because they know exactly what you're talking about. That's why I chase after people to give them a leaflet, or while I continue to talk after they've finished listening.

There was a plant that sat on the windowsill of a green building in town, maybe it still sits there to this day. A lady there told me that everyone else had given up on this plant, but it was her project - she had a deep conviction that it wasn't too far gone to be helped. She sat it in the sunshine, watered it daily, gave it the time and space it needed to grow again.

I'm not a trained counsellor, nor do I have all the answers. But I believe that no one is beyond help, and for as long as I have air in my lungs I won't give up shouting about mental health and how hope can be shone in the darkest of places.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Minimum Waiting Times for Mental Health

- Nicola Byron, Founding Director of Student Minds

Minimum Waiting Times for Mental Health

Speaking at the Liberal Democrats conference in Glasgow, Nick Clegg announced waiting time targets for mental health would be introduced by April next year. We are absolutely thrilled - this is one more step towards parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

Tracking and reporting waiting times and holding organisations to targets is absolutely vital for student mental health, where waiting times are the difference between successfully continuing with education and having to take time out. Students' transient lifestyle, spending around 25 weeks of the year at home, away from University and their registered GP, creates real problems for accessing specialist mental health services and receiving good continuity of care. These problems are exacerbated by long waiting times. Due to high demand for psychological therapies, it can currently take months to progress up a waiting list to receive care.

Our transitions report, University Challenge, identified that it is not uncommon for students to reach the top of the waiting list in their university locality when they are back at home during the holidays or when they are about to sit university exams. If patients cannot attend the sessions assigned to them, they are usually dropped off the waiting list and required to go through the referral process again. A quarter of the students with experience of eating disorders surveyed in the University Challenge study waited more than 6 months for an appointment with a specialist service and on average students were waiting 20 weeks for an appointment. These waiting periods are particularly problematic, leaving students doubting whether they need treatment; as they wait, people lose the self-motivation that they need to fight towards recovery. The challenge of waiting times is not only felt by students. Over half of professionals we surveyed in the University Challenge project identified that they did not find it easy to refer students to specialist services and 96% felt that students do not get see by specialist care quickly enough.

It is imperative that we do not let students fall through the gaps. "Because the majority of serious mental illnesses present themselves by the age of 25, students are a particularly vulnerable group and are most in need of reliable, accessible mental health care," says Seb Baird, Student Minds Volunteer.

To decrease waiting times, the government is going to have increase the availability of mental health interventions. The Health Foundation argues that this can be done effectively by changing the relationships between health services and those with mental health difficulties. A pilot peer support project at Nottingham NHS Trust resulted in a 14% reduction in inpatient stays, saving the trust around £260,000. Innovative steps like this can, and must, be used to help increase provision of mental health services, decrease demand for high intensity interventions, and cut waiting times.

Student Minds has been advocating the power of peer support for years. If you are interested in finding out more about the support that our programmes offer for students, please visit -

Monday, 6 October 2014

Freshers’ Week at the University of Nottingham – 5 (Our First Event!)

- Anna-Ruth Gray, Nottingham Student Minds

6th October

Our First Event!

On Wednesday 1st October, Student Minds Nottingham held our first social event ever and it was great fun!

We hired out a little place called Sobar, a non-alcoholic bar in Nottingham city centre. There was great food and drink and a chilled, calm atmosphere. One student I overheard said they had not felt this relaxed in a long time! People got chatting and mingling together really easily because of the fun and safe space we had managed to create. There was a really wide variety of students that came and it was great to see all these students with so many varied interests, personalities and lifestyles getting to know each other.

Later on in the evening we had 4 live acoustic acts, they were all quite different and all brilliant. A couple of the acts said some words about mental illness and how it had affected them which was a lovely moving touch and a step towards reducing stigma. One of them even commented that they don't normally feel comfortable explaining songs which are about mental illness at gigs but, they wanted to start because there really shouldn't be so much stigma around it.

Everyone involved had a great time and it was quite different to social events that are held by other groups at the university, which was refreshing. If you wanted to come and you were nervous, next time don't worry. Everyone was friendly and got socialising easily, there was also quite a few of the student minds team about to approach if you were feeling nervous.

Remember to like us on facebook or twitter for updates on events and socials:



Thank you to our events officer Jonathan for doing almost all the organising of this successful event and to the rest of the team for getting involved. Also, thanks to the music acts and everyone that came, we hope to see you all again soon!

Part I of "The Cat's Out of the Bag..." by LAYM competition winnerLizzie Akass

As part of our Look After Your Mate campaign, we held a creative writing competition on the theme of ‘friendship’ in partnership with The Student Wordsmith. We're delighted to release the first of our winning entries, a short story called "The Cat's Out of the Bag..." by Lizzie Akass from Loughborough University, the first part of which is below.

Part I of ‘The Cat’s Out of the Bag...’

by Lizzie Akass

‘Just give me the keys to a cat shelter now.’

‘Oh come on, don’t you think you’re overreacting?’

‘No. I’m so sick of men. I hate boys.’

‘Shall we become nuns together then?’

‘Too much work. I’d rather be a cat lady.’

‘OK. I’ll buy you a cardigan so you can button it up wrong.’

‘Perfect, I need glasses with the tape in the middle as well, please.’

‘On it. Anything else?’

‘Jonny Depp would be nice.’

‘Too old for you, it’d ruin him, he’d be creepy, not sexy. Robert Pattinson?’

‘Hmm . . . I think he’s more your type.’

‘He was voted sexiest man in the world a few times, I think he’s a lot of people’s type.’

‘No. I need options.’

‘Zac Efron?’


‘OK, so the ‘no boys’ thing is out of the window then?’

‘No, no. Still in place. He can just visit me when I need a man, ninety percent of the time I’m good with the cats.’

‘Well if the cats are in cages they can’t leave you.’

‘Exactly, they’d have to love me.’

‘That many cats is a lot of work though.’

‘Less work than a relationship.’

‘Well, evidently. But Dave is just a tool though, he can’t be your bar to judge all men by.’

‘Ben and Jerry are the only men I need in my life.’

‘Oh no, Zac will be so disappointed.’

‘OK, Ben, and Jerry, and Zac.’

‘Now you’re being greedy.’

‘You’re the one eating all the ice cream.’

‘Well, I did pay for it.’

I pass the melting pot of chocolate over to her and she plunges her spoon in. The Disney movie we’re watching flickers into a new scene. She glances up and begins to sing along, spluttering chocolate.

‘Oh you’re so attractive.’

‘I’m allowed to be. Newly single people are allowed to be gross for a month. It’s practically law.’

‘Oh really? Where was I when this was decided?’

‘Not being dumped.’

‘Fair point. But I do have to look at you . . . and smell you . . . when was the last time you showered?’


‘OK sure, sure. And in reality?’


‘It’s Sunday.’

‘I’m allowed to be gross! Simba wouldn’t judge me.’ She nods at the TV screen.

‘Lions wash themselves all the time.’

‘They also eat raw animal innards, your argument is invalid.’

The Lion King finishes. She launches herself to the cabinet beside the TV and produces three other Disney movies to choose from.

‘Which one?’

(To be continued...)

Lizzie Akass
Lizzie Akass is an undergraduate English student at Loughborough University. She loves writing both short stories and novels, and has recently had her short story, 'Cambodia', published through The Story Graph, loosely based on her own travelling experiences through South-East Asia.