Message to staff from the Vice-Chancellor - 6 November 2020
This week, in England, we have entered another period of lockdown and this presents challenges for all of us. These changes will of course have practical impacts and will affect how we can spend our time outside of our studies and how we connect with our friends and loved ones. And for many, the new lockdown will further highlight concerns about our wellbeing and mental health, as well as that of those around us.
Everybody has struggled at some point since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March this year. For some of us the effects on our wellbeing have been serious and have lasted for weeks or months. Feelings of anxiety, loneliness, tiredness and over-work are sadly widespread. They are also very normal.
But as we all feel concern for the future, there can be nothing more important right now than trying to take care of ourselves and each other. Please make sure you are aware of the wide range of support that is available to you, much of which is detailed below, and reach out whenever you feel you may need it.
I want to acknowledge how difficult this term has been. Many students have had to self-isolate, often in unfamiliar surroundings or with new housemates. I am acutely aware of the impact that reducing the ability to socialise with others across the University has had on the experience of being a student at Exeter.
We have all adapted to new demands when coming to our campuses for teaching, research and support. For those learning or working remotely, we have found new ways to work and to make connections with others, all whilst getting to grips with new technology as we go. But of course we are all missing being with our fellow students and colleagues.
Outside of work and study, we have managed new and changing restrictions on our personal lives, and felt concern about our own health and that of others around us. Usually at this time of year many of us would be looking forward to ending the year with events such as Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. These celebrations may feel very different this year. Still, we must remind ourselves to ‘step off’ at these important times to recharge and take a break. Our Diwali celebrations, organised by our student societies, will be online this year from 10-14 November, including henna workshops, dance workshops, Diwali playlists, cookery demonstrations, children’s activities and even Netflix recommendations. Please join in if you can.
I have seen exceptional creativity and resilience from you all, and I have been hugely impressed by the incredible support which has come from the officers and staff of our Students’ Guild in Exeter and Students’ Union in Cornwall, who have created innovative and engaging ways for you to connect and socialise.
But not all of us will be feeling positive at the moment and we all might have periods of feeling anxious or low. Do remember that it is normal and perfectly acceptable to not feel okay all of the time; you won’t be the only one. If you are struggling or just need to chat to someone then there are people who can help. You can find and access a wide range of support services via www.exeter.ac.uk/coronavirus/wellbeing. I want to draw your attention to some of these in particular.
As well as looking at the support available via our wellbeing service (student support, for Cornwall), don’t forget you can also access welfare support from our Hubs/Info Point teams. If you are in University accommodation you might want to reach out to our Residence Life teams (Residence Life Exeter or Res Life Cornwall), or get in touch with our Multifaith Chaplaincy teams in Exeter and Cornwall who are there to support students of all faiths and none.
Wellbeing workbooks – Our internationally recognised clinical and psychological therapies colleagues from CEDAR have developed workbooks to support wellbeing, these include guidance on wellbeing approaches to help you manage challenges arising from COVID-19
Togetherall – Students can now also access Togetherall, an award-winning online support service which offers help and companionship 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
SilverCloud – SilverCloud offers secure, immediate access to online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programmes, tailored to your specific needs and has an element specifically around COVID-19
Fika app – All students have access to Fika, a Mental Fitness platform designed to help you improve your Seven Skills of Mental Fitness. Search for 'Fika' and download from the App Store or Google Play Store; you can register using your University email address
UniWellBeing - If you’re based in Cornwall our UniWellBeing app is available with a range of healthy challenges, wellbeing tips, podcasts and more
Webinars - Our wellbeing teams have also recorded numerous webinars on a range of subjects and you can watch the recordings here
Student Space – led by Student Minds the UK’s student mental health charity, Student Space is a national resource which is designed to make it easier for you to find the support you need during COVID-19, with a wealth of resources available
Your Students’ Guild and Students’ Union
The Students’ Guild in Devon – the Guild’s Get Connected campaign is designed to give you some much needed positivity in these uncertain times. Whether you want to get involved in their pen-pal scheme or get a group of you together for one of their exciting virtual events, there's plenty to get involved with! Their next event is a Mind Reading and Magic Night on Friday 13 Nov which you can get a free ticket for here. Follow @exeterguild on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep an eye out for other upcoming events.
The Students’ Union in Cornwall – access their Advice Service for a range of free, impartial and confidential advice, or reach out to one of their elected officers. Keep an eye out for their #SUTogetherWherever campaign on their Instagram too (@TheSUFalExe), or get involved in one of their many online events.
Finally, I have been very heartened by the incredible support and kindness I’ve witnessed right across our community since I joined the University. The way you have all looked after your friends and your neighbours has been wonderful to see - but please make sure you also take the time to be kind to yourself!
Professor Lisa Roberts
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive