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Meningitis Awareness

Many people believe that meningitis only affects babies and children, but this is far from the truth. Adults are actually at an increased risk of meningitis as immune systems weaken as we get older. There is an estimated 3,300 cases of Meningitis and Septicaemia every year, meaning every day 9 people become ill with the diseases.

But what is meningitis and what are the signs and symptoms?

Meningitis is a bacterial and viral infection of the membranes surrounding the spinal chord and the brain. It can happen to anyone at any age, so it is important to know the symptoms to look out for:

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsy, difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Pale, blotchy skin, spots / rash
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike bright lights
  • Convulsions / seizures

Symptoms can appear in any order - some may not appear at all. Someone with meningitis or septicaemia can get a lot worse very quickly. Keep checking on them.

Trust your instincts! If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, get urgent medical help.

For more information, visit the Meningitis Now website or call the Meningitis Helpline, a 24 hour nurse-led helpline:

Meningitis Helpline: 0808 80 10 388


World suicide prevention

Suicide is always everyone’s business all of the time but with World Suicide Prevention Day just around the corner on September the 10th this year it is particularly at the forefront of our minds here at Student Support/ Wellbeing.

Did you know that in 2017 in the UK and Ireland alone, over 6000 people died because of suicide? Did you also know that suicide is at a record level among students at U.K. universities? That the suicide rate among U.K. students increased by 56% in the 10 years to 2016 to overtake the suicide rate of young people in the general population for the first time with an increase from 6.6 per 100 000 to 10.3 per 100 000 between 2007 and 2016? To put this into context, last year 211 students in this country died because they either were not able to be, or did not want to be, prevented from acting on suicidal thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings which are much more common than you would think.

WHAT HAS THIS ALL GOT TO DO WITH YOU? Well, prevention of something like suicide is essential because with suicide there is obviously no cure. Even one successful suicide attempt at our university is one too many.

There are, however, many ways at Sunderland University that you, and others, can either help yourself or be helped to get yourself through some of life’s particularly rough patches and this piece is going to tell you about some of them.

So…. if your mental health is good: great. Keep it up!

If it’s slipping and you’re starting to struggle for whatever reason remember that we have lots of really useful workshops on offer to you. For Study Skills have a look at the online resources available on The Murray Library website or book a 1:1 appointment with a Study Skills Advisor there. Otherwise check out the Wellbeing website to see what’s coming up. We also have an online CBT resource called ‘Silvercloud’ which is completely free to all students, available 24 hours a day and completely confidential. Modules available include ‘Space from depression’ ‘Space from Anxiety’ ‘OCD’ ‘Stress’ ‘Social Anxiety’ and ‘Positive Body Image ’to name but a few.

For financial worries or issues either book an appointment to see one of brilliant financial advisors, Nick or Kevin, or call

the team (Adrian, Nick..) or call 0191 515 2933 (Student Support) for drop-in times. For anything disability or health related you need to speak to Ben or …for advice and support. Don’t forget that academic and accommodation staff are there to help too, so if you need to, speak to or e-mail someone you trust to confide in. There’s also the brilliant Progression Team for all First years to access with any academic concerns.

Be brave and just let someone, anyone, know that you’re struggling.

If things don’t improve or get worse, either fill in a self-referral form for Student Support or pop in to see us on 1st Floor Edinburgh Building, Monday to Friday 9-5pm and we’ll organise a free initial assessment for you.

If you get really bad and you start to have strong suicidal thoughts and feelings that you’re struggling to contain and manage: tell someone; anyone who you think might be able to help and together either speak to a member of staff or do one or two of the following:

1) Call your G.P. to book an emergency appointment or 111 for out-of-hours.

2) Go to A and E.

3) Call 999.

4) Call the Crisis Team on

5) Come along to Student Support 1st Floor Edinburgh Building between 9 and 5 Monday to Friday.

6) Call The Samaritans on 111 123.

Try not to drink any alcohol or take drugs if you’re feeling really bad as these chemicals can increase your chances of making a really bad decision which could cost you your life.

Whatever you do, whether you’re feeling suicidal yourself or concerned about someone else, PLEASE DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE. Suicide is everyone’s business all the time. Let someone help.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a suicide check out, a great local organisation dedicated to suicide care.


World Mental health Day

World Mental Health Day is observed every year on the 10th of October. The aim of the event is to raise awareness of mental health issues and advocate against the social stigma that is still attached to the subject. The theme for 2019 is ‘Suicide Prevention’.

Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. That’s close to 800,000 people globally each year. It is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 in the UK and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally. Mental Health is something that we must all think about, as we all have a brain and we can all experience things like depression and anxiety.

The stigma that surrounds suicide is still prevalent – to this day some people think those who commit suicide are cowards and selfish, and those who attempt are attention seekers. This stigma needs to be broken down in order for us to be able to have productive conversations with one another on the subject.

What can we do to help this?

For World Mental Health Day, a day for ’40 seconds of action’, we have a list of ways you can help raise awareness about suicide prevention:

  • If you are struggling, take 40 seconds to kickstart a conversation with someone you trust about how you are feeling
  • If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, take 40 seconds to start a conversation and ask them how they are doing.
  • If you work in media, highlight the 40-second statistic in interviews, articles and blogposts.
  • If you work in the arts or on digital platforms, interrupt your production or broadcast to tansmit a 40-second message about mental health or preventing suicide
  • If you are an employer or manager, take 40 seconds to formulate a positive message of support to your employees about resources available to them in the workplace or local community in times of mental distress.
  • If you want your leaders to hear your request for action, record a 40-second audio clip or video telling them the action you want them to take on suicide prevention and mental health
  • If you have a platform for communicating with a large audience (social media, television, radio), provide 40-second slots for sharing mental health stories and messages.
  • If you hold political office, communicate publicly about action you are taking to promote mental health and prevent suicide, highlighting the 40-second statistic 

Share your messages, photos, illustrations and videos on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #40seconds and #WorldMentalHealthDay


According to the statistics, the average age of a student at the University of Sunderland is 26 years old. You are no longer the spring chickens you once were and the older you get, the more important it becomes that you look after your physical health through developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

So why am I highlighting that you are slightly older than the stereotypical 18-year-old school leaver that many envisage when they think of university students? Because of smoking.

If you are a University of Sunderland student who smokes, it is more likely you have been smoking for longer (due the majority of smokers developing their habits before the age of 18), making the task of quitting far more arduous. The habit is more likely to be ingrained into your daily routines, eating practices, social interactions and self-identification. Yet do not despair, research demonstrates that if you are able to go 28 days without a cigarette you are five times more likely to stay smoke-free for good.

This is the foundation to Stoptober, which is biggest mass quit attempt in the country and has driven over 1 million quit attempts to date. By signing up to Stoptober, you can receive a range of free support from daily Facebook messages and emails, a progression app and support from a community of quitters engaging with the campaign. In addition, you can get expert face-to-face advice from local stop smoking services. This last form of support is important as those who use stop smoking aids and who get face-to-face support from their local stop smoking service are up to four times more likely to quit successfully. If you are from Sunderland there is a brilliant new Stop Smoking Service for you to take advantage, contact them here. If you live elsewhere in the North East, find your nearest Stop Smoking Service here.

Your University can also be a source of support for those committing to the Stoptober challenge. The Wellbeing department can offer you support and sign post you to relevant agencies. Your personal tutors can be a good source of encouragement and will be able to provide you with advice on managing stress related to academic performance, in turn making Stoptober that bit easier for you. But maybe the biggest form of support you will be able to find at university are your fellow students. Why don’t you try and persuade that group of friends you go smoke with between lecturers to all take part in Stoptober? Having this kind of support to stave of the pressures of the ritualised cigarette brake maybe the thing that gets you through Stoptober and one-step closer to a smoke-free life.


National Stress Awareness Day


Higher education is all about pushing you outside your academic comfort zone into new and unchartered intellectual territories. This normally translates into a requirement of you to create long, complex pieces of work whilst preforming to a certain standard when doing so. Due to this, stress and university go hand in hand. As a recent student, I remember walking into the library near exam time and you just feel the collective stress in the air. Yet stress is not necessarily a negative experience and for some people it can actually be a source of motivation and productivity. Despite this, if productive stress goes unmanaged, it can easily become maladaptive stress, which may have a negative impact upon your mental health.

To raise awareness of this, the International Stress Management Association are running a national stress awareness week from the 4th of November. This year’s theme is resiliance.


The aim of the week is to promote wellbeing in working enviroments. In addition to this, the charity seeks to keep mental health, in particular work stress, high within the nation’s agenda. To promote wellbeing in the work place and let employers as well as employees, learn a better way to deal with their stress. A huge success last year, with lots of businesses’ and Universities becoming involved, this year is hoped to be even better.

The charity has a week full of events being planned, ending with the annual conference in London. To see the programme of events at the conference click the link;



National & International Anxiety Month

Anxiety is something that every person will feel or has felt before in their lives. New situations such as starting university, being assigned a mammoth essay to write or entering into a seminar full of new people are situations that may cause anxiety. Remember that the process of becoming comfortable with something, whether this be a new set of people, a new task or responsibility, neccesitates being uncomfortable at some point as this is what you are progressing away from as you become comfortable. But for some, this is process is more difficult and anxiety can grow into a big problem, to the point where it effects their daily activties and thoughts. General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is more common than you might think. In the UK around 1 in every 25 people suffer with anxiety.

Anxiety can be managed in a variety of ways. There are some things you can do yourself at home which may help improve symptoms.

For example;

  • A self-help course
  • Regular exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Cutting down on coffee
  • Cutting down on alcohol

For some people home remedies may just not be enough and so you can seek help from your GP. Your GP may refer you to a counselling service to have some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a type of counselling aimed at changing the way your brain processes thoughts. This can help change your feelings and behaviours, lowering symptoms of anxiety.

As well as counselling, your GP may feel it is appropriate to prescribe some medication to help you with your symptoms. The medication will help to boost serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is the chemical which regulates your mood and helps you to feel happy.

Treatments are not always fast acting and can take some time to work. Some treatments may even heighten symptoms for a while, but this is normal and can be a part of the process to getting better.




Alcohol Awareness Week

Alcohol Awareness Week is a chance for the UK to think about how much we drink. Running from Novermber 11th to the 17th, the theme this year is 'Alcohol and Me'. It is a time that we can reflect on how much is too much, and an opportunity to test how much we know about drinking guidelines and the health impacts associated with excessive drinking. Alcohol Change UK are challenging us to think about the wider impact alcohol can have, not just on the one who drinks but on their family and friends. It can have an impact on our family life, social life, and working life.

Alcohol causes too much harm across the UK. In 2017, there were over 7,500 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, the highest amount since 2008. In 2017/18, 75,787 people were in treatmnet at specialist alcohol misuse services. It is not just health that alcohol impacts, but also crime. In 2015/16 in England, victims believed the offender to be under the influence of alcohol in 39% of all violent incident.

These are just a few statistics that represent the way in which alcohol can impact all aspects of our lives, from our health and those around us to crime and violent incidents.

If you think you may need help with alcohol, visit Alcohol Change UK's website here, and take their drinking quiz if you are not sure about how much alcohol you are consuming.




When someone has lost a loved one, trying to cope with the pain and loss alone can be difficult. People can be left feeling sad, lonely, helpless, confused, and even angry.

We cannot see grief, nor can we smell it or touch it, it is like an invisible power that has to let us know where we are, its job is to catch us off guard and wake us up to what has happened, it needs to remind us of the pain we have found ourselves in, grief does not have feelings of its own, so it lends a hand to the ones we cannot control. We may not like Grief, we may hate it, and at times think it is out to get us. But grief is not the bad guy, grief ultimately will guide us to that place of peace, so make friends with grief, and it will ease you through what seems like an impossible journey.

When you lose someone close it can feel like everything in life has stopped, and often like you cannot go on.

There is life after grief, and working through this difficult process is key to ultimately finding peace.

When working with grief I often describe the process gently like a journey, a journey that may at times seem impossible, and a journey that the bereaved quite often simply do not have the energy for. If we can begin this painful process and acknowledge the journey has begun, and the pain this brings, visualizing the process as a bit like being on a bus, on this bus there will be stops along the way, and the ride may be bumpy in parts, the bumps in the road may catch us off guard one day, then be smooth the next. There may be five or six stops.

The distance between these stops can vary, each one representing a part of our own personal process. On this bus we can explore, accept, and manage our emotional connection with the person who has died. Working this way at a pace that suits helps people to see that their journey is moving forward.

The importance of acknowledging the journey has begun is pivotal.

The last stop being that of acceptance with their loss, I always imagine acceptance as being a real place, an actual place that really exists, what does this place look like? What does it feel like? Is it warm?

Guiding imagery to create this place the bereaved is heading for is important, it is important that they believe that the journey they are embarking on is real, and for them a place they can reach, a place that is free from the dark place of grief. It is important for the bereaved to see and plan a life without the person who has died, and to focus our energy on something new.



Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.


Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.


Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

~ Christina Rossetti


Somebody said to me recently I do not feel much for the loss of my mother, I asked if he knew why he felt this way and his reply was simple and medicinal, he told me.

“She has not gone, she is all around, she is everywhere, and I see my mother in everything beautiful”

This was one of the most powerful things I had ever heard connected to grief.


International Men's Day

November 19th is International Men's Day across the world! You may be wondering what International Men's Day involves, and you may even think it sounds a bit odd. But the purpose is to raise awareness about a number of important issues that affect men.

Did you know that in the UK, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women? In 2018, it was revealed that male suicides had dropped to their lowest rate for more than 30 years - and we would like to see the figure continue to plummet. One of the ways you can raise awareness about male suicide prevention is by participating in Movember.

Movember involves men growing their facial hair, bears and moustaches alike, in an effort to promote conversations about mental health, and more specifically suicide prevention. If you would like to get involved with this, visit the Movember website.

International Men's Day also is an opportunity for men to talk about other issues such as prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death amongst men in the UK, and it is preventable if caught early with a simple, painless test. It is the most common cancer in males in the UK, with around 47,600 new cases in 2016 alone. So why chance it? Why risk being part of the statistic? Get checked now.

In short, International Men's Day is about celebrating being a man and realising that we cannot be too proud, too stubborn or too scared to talk about our mental health. There is no shame in struggling with your mental health, and the stigma attached to this has lingered around for far too long. Help detach this stigma by talking to one another about any problems you may be having - you'll be surprised how many people have the same thoughts.

If you'd like to get involved in International Men's Day 2019, visit the University of Sunderland Facebook page on the 19th of November for a live Q&A sessions with out team, a chance to discuss everything related to Men's Health.

Every Monday, the Samaritans will be hosting drop-in sessions located within Student Support Services giving you the opportunity to chat about loneliness and isolation and any other feelings you may be having. To book an appointment, please email or phone 0191 515 2933

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