By Flossie Palmer, Features Editor
Today, Bristol SU, in collaboration with PROJECT:TALK, is launching their Mental Fitness Fair in the Anson Rooms, located in the Richmond Building, to help signpost mental health services from PROJECT:TALK, the University and within the Bristol community.
PROJECT:TALK is a Community Interest Company (CIC) founded by University of Bristol students, George Cole and Daisy Hewitt. Their main goal is to change the way we view mental health by encouraging the exercise of mental fitness – the practice of training your mind to navigate difficult situations and reaching out to the right resources if needed - in communities across the UK.
The fair will showcase services from around the city, offering attendees the chance to meet the people behind them, ask questions and discover more about the mental health support easily available to you throughout your time in Bristol. George Cole, Co-Founder and Director of PROJECT:TALK, acknowledges the importance of signposting mental health support services, admitting that ‘When you're feeling overwhelmed, it can be really hard to find and access the support that's right for you. With so many services doing fantastic things, the breadth of choice and hard-to-navigate directories can become a huge barrier.’ The Mental Fitness Fair aims to tackle this difficulty by demystifying the support groups attending and demonstrating how to access them by introducing a face-to-face approach, in which students can meet the team behind the organisation in person.
Although the fair aims to improve individual awareness of the variety of mental health support on campus, PROJECT:TALK has also emphasised the importance of knowing where to point a friend in need. George also emphasised that even if you’re not in need of support, being aware of the services on offer may benefit others around you: ‘We've all been in a situation where you're a bit worried about someone but aren't quite sure what to do and where to point them. It's really important that even if you don't think you'll ever need support yourself, you are aware of what's available so you're able to support your mates as best you can.’
'This event is for students, run by students and it’s really important to try and get as many people there as possible to show the university and community how vital events like these are!’
PROJECT:TALK places community and visibility at the forefront of its mental fitness mission, allowing students attending the Mental Fitness Fair to meet the faces behind their 1:1 Peer Support Scheme run by trained student volunteers. The Scheme, run in tandem with the PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society at the University, allows students to request a call with a trained student volunteer to receive 1:1 mental health support and advice over the phone.
Alongside PROJECT:TALK’s Peer Support Scheme, a range of other peer support groups will also be attending the Fair, such as TalkClub, Sexual Assault Survivor Support (SASS) and Identity & Culture Peer Support Group. With a total of 21 groups, both student-led and external, attending the fair, notably Off The Record (OTR) Bristol, Suicide Prevention Bristol, the Bristol SU Wellbeing Network and the LGBTQ+ Society, the fair will showcase a variety of mental health support suitable for the needs of every individual.
The Fair, taking place between 11am-2pm, is also hosting a range of mental fitness talks and workshops for students attending the event, such as talks from Nightline, TalkClub, the Bristol SU Wellbeing Survey Team and PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society. Daisy Hewitt, Co-Founder of PROJECT:TALK and organiser of the fair, expressed her hope that the fair will help contribute to a stronger and more accessible network of mental health support services for Bristol students.
‘We have all spent a long time discussing and being outraged at how mental health and wellbeing is often been an afterthought, terribly underfunded, under supported and understaffed but finally we are making inroads to change.’ She explained, ‘This event is for students, run by students and it’s really important to try and get as many people there as possible to show the university and community how vital events like these are!’
'It's really important that even if you don't think you'll ever need support yourself, you are aware of what's available so you're able to support your mates as best you can.'
Beyond the Mental Fitness Fair, U.o.Bristol Grief, Terminal and Life-Threatening Illness Support Group is also offering a course of eight art classes to get involved in, beginning 28 October, for students struggling to come to terms with their own illness, or that of a family member or friend in a safe anfd friendly environment.
PROJECT:TALK encourages students to get involved with providing support for others, such as through joining an existing university society in partnership with PROJECT:TALK, such as, the PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society, or an equivalent. For students wanting to gain experience in working with mental health or simply the experience of helping others, the PROJECT:TALK 1:1 Peer Support Scheme is the perfect opportunity for students to receive mental health support training and experience of putting this into practice.
New to this academic year, PROJECT:TALK are also launching their Mental Fitness Ambassador programme at the University of Bristol. Student Ambassadors will receive comprehensive training, an introduction to mental fitness and basic Mental Health First Aid training, as well as guidance on how to signpost a peer towards support services suitable for them. Overall, the Ambassador programme aims to increase awareness on campus of the mental health services available to students, as well as how they can be accessed.
In collaboration with the SU, PROJECT:TALK is building a network of peer support groups for Bristol students, most of which will be attending the Mental Fitness Fair. These peer support groups share PROJECT:TALK’s aim to improve mental fitness through a variety of activities, such as weekly mental fitness workouts hosted by TalkClub, to outdoor walks with Dudes & Dogs – a society making space for men to open up about their mental health and tackle the gendered stigma of doing so.
‘Mental health is like exercise, you need to practice it to stay healthy’ – A new peer-support scheme at the SU plans to tackle mental health
By organising the fair, PROJECT:TALK is a centre for students to branch out and discover the variety of mental health support services available to them while in a safe and friendly environment. As Daisy highlighted, ‘Having the ability to meet the kind faces and have open conversations with the organisations that are provided to you in leaflets or online should not be undervalued.’
‘You or a friend may not need support right now, but it may become invaluable in the future.’
To access PROJECT:TALK’s mental health support services, such as speaking to a trained peer supporter or finding the peer group for you, visit: projecttalk.org.uk/bristol-peer-support.
Alternatively, to find out more about how you can get involved in PROJECT:TALK’s Mental Fitness Ambassador programme or join the society, visit: projecttalk.org.uk/mfa.
Featured Image: Epigram / PROJECT:TALK
Will you be attending the Mental Fitness Fair today?
If you are concerned for the mental wellbeing of yourself or somebody else, please access the University of Bristol health and wellbeing services here.