It’s been tough to be a student during the pandemic. Lockdowns have prevented contact with friends and family, and socialising – the cornerstone of the university experience – has been severely limited by remote learning and social distancing. In a 2020 survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics, more than half of the student respondents said that they felt their mental health had deteriorated since the start of the term. Of that number, only one fifth had sought help. University can be challenging at the best of times, but these turbulent circumstances have made it even trickier to navigate.
We all have mental health, and it’s vital that we talk about it. So join us to discuss mental health among students in the UK. A panel of experts and campaigners will discuss the challenges that students are facing, how to support those experiencing mental health difficulties, and ways to improve our own mental health.
All are welcome to attend and there will be plenty of opportunities to put your questions to our speakers. Please register to reserve a place for you and your household.
Isabelle Ellis (Chair)
Isabelle Ellis is Young Humanists’ Northern Ireland ambassador and a final year undergraduate at Queen’s University Belfast. She is also a committee member of the ‘Mind your Mood’ mental health campaign. The group is led by Queen’s students and runs workshops and events to educate students and smash the stigma surrounding speaking about mental health.
Hari Parekh is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at the University of Liverpool. He has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and Criminological Psychology from the University of Nottingham. He is a former President of Humanist Students and has also served as the Chair of European Young Humanists, which is part of Young Humanists International.
Hari’s MSc thesis, Apostates as a Hidden Population of Abuse Victims, is the first publication to highlight the worldwide abuse of apostates within religious households.
Jenny Smith is Policy Manager at Student Minds, a charity working to empower students and members of the university community to develop the knowledge, confidence, and skills to look after their own mental health, support others, and create change. Jenny delivers research, briefings, and analysis to empower the Student Minds team. She keeps a finger on the pulse of the higher education and mental health sectors and is passionate about grassroots activism, co-production, and student leadership.
Dr Anastasia Somerville-Wong
Dr Anastasia Somerville-Wong is the first Humanist Chaplain to join the Multifaith Chaplaincy Team at the University of Exeter. Anastasia undertook assessment and training in pastoral care with Humanists UK (a member organisation of the Network for Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care in Health) and is an accredited member of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network whose code of practice she is bound to follow.
In addition to pastoral care, which is primarily about listening and using 'counselling-type' conversation skills, her role as Humanist Chaplain includes: advocacy; signposting; community building and the organisation of educational and social events; the creation/leadership of appropriate rituals and celebrations; and supporting Exeter Humanist Students, which promotes and supports atheist, humanist, and secular world-views.
While her own world-view is progressive and humanist, Anastasia takes inspiration from the insights and practices of many of the world's faiths and philosophical traditions. She has worked for many years with people of more orthodox persuasions from a variety of faith backgrounds, and is therefore able to provide pastoral and spiritual care for all persons with the utmost confidentiality and respect for people's individual beliefs and values.