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How do you keep mentally fit? PROJECT:TALK’s ultimate guide

George Cole, fourth year medic student and Co-Founder of mental wellbeing charity PROJECT:TALK talks through the range of support available for students who feel they may need support.

By George Cole, Fourth Year, Medicine, Co-Founder of PROJECT:TALK

‘Reach out, our door is always open. We’re here if you need to talk!’. Behold, the go-to statement.

I wouldn’t be surprised if your automatic response to this platitude is similar to one of the below:

1. I’m fine, but thanks. I’m sure I will if I ever need.

2. Ok… so maybe I should. But what on earth will I say? It would be so awkward and what if they judge me?

3. I don’t want to waste their time. I don’t think I’m bad enough to need support, anyway.

Dudes & Dogs – A walk with other dudes (and dogs) is taking place on 16 May | Dudes & Dogs

The truth is, it’s not just ok to talk… it’s vitally important, as put by our friends at Dudes & Dogs. But often it feels really difficult and not just as simple as ‘reaching out’. So today, we’re reaching out to you.

My aim for this article is to share with you PROJECT:TALK’s top tips for mental fitness, particularly for those of us who don’t fancy the idea of sitting in a quiet room discussing our feelings with a stranger.

This week has been tough for our University community. It’s an entirely natural part of being human to experience a wide range of thoughts and emotions, especially in difficult times.

Emotions are a response to the often challenging environment that surrounds us.

In fact, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations are actually our body’s three main ways of communicating its needs to us. The trouble is, they’re such a basic part of being human that nobody ever teaches us how to interpret them and what to do with them. They can at times feel really difficult to navigate, overwhelming and like we need to escape from them.

So, when should we get some support?

Looking after our mental fitness is something we should do at all times, whether we’re feeling on top of the world or like we just can’t be bothered – a bit like physical fitness. There simply is no ‘I’m not bad enough’, no threshold to give your mind some attention.

Mental fitness is in what’s around us, not just what’s within us. So, the best thing for it is to connect with our surroundings. This can be hard, though, when we don’t have the energy, and that’s why we need to lean on those around us who do – with this, comes a collective responsibility to make sure each and every person feels safe, heard and truly valued.

PROJECT:TALK is a non-profit peer-to-peer support organisation that seeks to improve mental fitness among Bristol students | PROJECT:TALK

So, where to start?

If you need to speak to someone urgently or need help right now, click here. In an emergency, call 112 from anywhere.

If you don’t think you fall into this category and just need to vent, would like someone to talk to, feel a bit lost or angry in the complexities of this strange time, or don’t know what to watch next on Netflix, here are some places we can guarantee that there is always a great group of people, waiting to hear what you have to say and give you the advice you need (if you want advice, that is).

Head over to the PROJECT:TALK website to get in touch with a trained, 1:1 peer supporter or browse support groups.

After you request a chat, it won’t be long before a trained, fellow student gets in touch. You don’t have to know what to say, our volunteers are some of the most friendly and brilliant people on campus who can help you figure it out, hear what you have to say or just have a chat. They won’t tell anyone about your conversation, unless they’re really worried or you want them to.

Some of our students speak to us just once, some have a regular weekly call with a volunteer who has become a friend.

Our peer supporters can point you to one of our groups:

Talk Club – A mental fitness workout, every Saturday morning at 11am.

How are you, out of 10? For those of us who like a bit of structure, Talk Club is centred around 4 questions proven to support your mental fitness. Not only is there a Bristol Uni group for everyone, led by our captains Patrick and Fergus, but there’s also a number of men’s groups in Bristol if you’d like to get out of the student bubble.

Dudes & Dogs – A walk with other dudes (and dogs) at 10am, 16 May!

Local Bristol dude Rob Osman and his dog, Mali, founded Dudes & Dogs to get men out for a walk and talk. It’s honestly one of the best things you could do for your mental fitness so get your trainers out and book on. Quite a few men feel a bit uneasy about going for the first time, but you’ve just got to do it – and if you don’t like it, you never have to go again. The walks will be weekly from September. There will also be a peer support ‘meet-the-team’ event at 7pm on 13 May.

U.o.Bristol Grief, Terminal and Life-Threatening Illness Support Group

A brilliant community of students who have, or are experiencing, the loss of a loved one, other forms of grief, terminal or life-threatening illness.

The group have just finished the first ever course of therapeutic arts sessions funded by PROJECT:TALK – an hour and a half a week where you can do something a bit different and be in the company of some great people who you can talk to if you want, but equally its perfectly okay to sit quietly and get a bit creative.

PROJECT:TALK Bristol society and other groups that make up the Bristol SU Wellbeing Network

Our PROJECT:TALK Bristol Society always has loads on – from cooking and cocktail making classes with local independents, to TOOLS TO:TALK mental fitness workshops, from socials over cake to monthly walking routes. Membership is free, so why wouldn’t you?

Speak Up – Public speaking support

If you are one of the many people who hates public speaking or ruminates over your performance for days after a presentation, Speak Up can help. You can even book a 1:1 session to practice and get feedback on a presentation.

If you decide together that you could do with some more in-depth support, start with the University’s single point of access. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, your peer support volunteer can do it on your behalf with your permission.

• Alongside this, you can self-refer to Vitaminds, Bristol’s go-to for your mental health.

• If you want to speak to someone quickly, you can get a same day appointment with a GP at Student Health and most other GP surgeries.

• Loads of info is available at and useful tips are available at

‘What will I say?’ – you don’t have to know

Often, it’s hard to know how to describe complex experiences. Writing down what you’re going to say before speaking can be really useful – just a few key bullet points to rely on, though this is of course not essential.

If ever you or someone your know doesn’t feel safe or is at risk, there is always hope:

From wherever you are:

• Go to to help stay safe

• Call 112 in a life-threatening emergency, always.

In the UK:

• Anybody is welcome to call Suicide Prevention Bristol’s assist line if they need to talk, available 24/7 on 0800 689 5652.

• You can text SHOUT to 85258 or call Samaritans on 116123, 24/7

• NHS 111 is a great place for urgent advice.

• 999 or 112 in an emergency

This May is Mental Fitness Month. If you’d like to fundraise for us to help PROJECT:TALK support our students, you can take part for free here.

Featured Image: PROJECT:TALK

After a difficult week for Bristol’s student community, reach out if you’re ever in need of support.