As we begin to look to the future at how life in a post-COVID world might appear¸ we can find ourselves reflecting on how our lives have changed and evolved. There have been aspects of these changes that have been positive for us as individuals and as a society: we’ve changed the way we use our time (and our cars), how we communicate with each other, how we check in with friends and family, and how much more emphasis we put on our mental health and wellbeing. Suddenly we’ve been able to slow down, take stock of what is really important to us and use some of our spare time to regroup and think about our future and what we want it to look like.
At Surrey, our University support services have been doing exactly the same thing: evolving to ensure they can offer their services in a more accessible way and taking into account the different stresses and worries now facing our cohort of students, that weren’t even something to consider back in February.
In the Wellbeing and Welfare department especially, the adaptations made to the services available have been both vast and swift, ensuring a smooth transition to remote and hybrid learning while still continuing to offer a high level of support to students. The Centre for Wellbeing now runs their counselling service almost entirely via ‘One at a Time’ video call appointments and the registration form is now a short and sweet online form that sends your answers directly to the Centre for Wellbeing reception team.
As a University, Surrey has always prided itself on offering a continuously high level of wellbeing support to it’s students, recognising the pressures that students face on a daily basis and how these pressures change and adapt with the times. Ongoing staff training is paramount to ensuring that what affects the students of today is at the forefront of everyone’s minds when it comes to offering support and guidance to you as students, and the Peer Support Scheme is one of the most useful resources (as students themselves) for relaying what those pressures are to the wider Surrey staff community.
This year Surrey ranked 7th in the UK and 40th in the world (out of 601 institutions) for it’s impact on good health and wellbeing and this recognition illustrates just how much the University cares about the wellbeing and welfare of every one of it’s students.
Due to recent restructures within the University, the Wellbeing and Welfare department as a whole has also grown extensively to now include the Chaplaincy services, Disability and Neurodiversity services, Wardens and the Peer Support Service.
The Peer Support Service, an amalgamation of the long running Student Life Mentoring Service which has been part of the backbone of first year student residential support for the past 14 years, and the Peer Support Scheme that was such a success in the Vet School that it was rolled out across FHMS and the School of Law last year, is now a fully operational online offering. Our new service which is currently in it’s first year under the new name runs daily bookable Teams appointments and a complete Social Media presence across Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. The great thing about the Peer Support Service, and what sets it apart from the rest, is that it is a service run by students for students with all the Peer Supporters being current Surrey students from all three faculties.
“Being able to chat with a student who was in your shoes only a year or two before can be very reassuring and many times enables students to speak more openly and more freely.”
The service, which we run in collaboration with the Centre for Wellbeing, includes 11 fully trained Peer Supporters who are available to chat online between 7-9pm every day of the week about any queries, worries or concerns you might have, regardless of what year you’re in. We are completely in the know about all the support services across the University and once we’ve had a chat with you and listened to what’s on your mind we can offer our own experienced advice as well as pointing you in the direction of other relevant teams and services who might be able to help you further.
“It was nice talking to someone who has been in my situation not long ago as it felt as though they understand, rather than a member of staff who hasn’t experienced a similar environment”
The aim of the service is to be there for students who don’t necessarily want to speak to a friend, professional or member of staff, and to support, signpost and empower you to bring about the change you need to move forward with whatever is on your mind.
“I think it is such a useful program and honestly helped me so much. It’s something I would considering doing in my final year as I know what a huge impact it can make”
The beauty of this service in the current climate is that it is being run entirely online while lockdown and social distancing rules remain in place, meaning that you can pick up your phone or laptop at any point during the evening and send us an email, DM us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and chat with a us on Microsoft Teams from the comfort of your own bedroom.
If you would like to chat with a Peer Supporter this semester these are all the ways you can do so: