Grace Kendrick (BA 2017, MA 2019) explains how the alumni-supported Healthy Minds programme has been a crucial factor in getting her through a very tough time at university.
By the end of my undergraduate degree I was extremely busy and very stressed from overwork. So much so that I didn’t even realise I needed help. Over the summer my parents realised I was struggling, and I went to the GP. Unfortunately, when I went back to start my Master’s my mum was diagnosed with cancer at the same time, which was devastating. I didn’t know if I should carry on with my studies, or if I should drop out.
I found out via the University’s website what support was available to me. I got an appointment for the Counselling Services within two weeks and I went to see them. But you know, for me, the hardest thing is to talk about what I’m going through. I was offered regular counselling, but it really didn’t feel like the right fit for me. Then the counsellor told me about the Healthy Minds Programme and I was accepted onto that, which has been amazing.
I was assigned a mentor for three months. I had to meet him at the gym once a week for a minimum of an hour. He taught me so much about myself, and how to make sure I had balance in my life. I did a lot of strength-based work, to rebuild myself after my ill health. Confidence building in the gym led to confidence outside of it. I really didn’t feel comfortable with a traditional type of talking therapy, it’s not for everybody. But actually, my mentor was getting me to discuss things without me realising it.
For the following three months I then had free gym membership and I made a lot of new friends in my exercise classes, who were very supportive. The Healthy Minds Programme really worked for me because I did need a contact, a human being to report to and to support me. I found this a better fit than a traditional therapist’s office. That’s why this programme is so important and it’s so key that it remains funded. You have to meet people where they are and for many students getting ‘counselling’ via sport is a game changer.
Once I completed the programme I took a course to be a Run Leader, which was also provided by the University. I started off doing a 10k with a running club I’d formed. I felt I was helping other students, giving back in return for the help I received. I finished the year by running the London Marathon and raising more funds to support Healthy Minds and I’m really proud of this. I achieved my MA in Law and now I’m excited to start work. I’ll be bringing with me everything I’ve learned about taking care of myself and my wellbeing.
The Healthy Minds programme aims to help students experiencing mental health difficulties. Based at the Indoor Sport Centre, students are supported to take positive steps to improve the way they feel. Referral is via Student Wellbeing Advisers, the Student Counselling Service or the Mental Health Advisory Service. The programme includes accessible, social and inclusive classes, gym and sports opportunities. Physical activity has been shown to release chemicals that boost mood. Regular activity also gives students the benefits of a structured routine and a strong sense of community.