Category Archives: Student Support and Wellbeing

Mental health awareness week events

Mental Health Awareness Week: what’s on and support

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2024). Find out what’s on and support:

Event highlights

Look After Your Mate workshops

Kent Union is running “Look After Your Mate” workshops on both Wednesday 15 May and Thursday 16 May. These are in-person workshops to help give you the practical skills and knowledge to support a friend in need whilst protecting your own wellbeing.

The workshops are open to all students whether you are currently supporting a friend, want to be prepared for the future or just have a keen interest in wellbeing. And on completion, you’ll receive a certificate!

The workshop is approximately two hours long. Spaces are limited to 20 students per workshop so register now to avoid disappointment.

Book your place for Look After Your Mate workshop.

Relaxation sessions at The Hub, Medway

If you need a way to de-stress during exams, head to The Hub for one of their relaxation sessions on Monday 13 May and Friday 17 May. On the Monday you can choose between a 15-minute massage or a gel manicure. Friday is another chance to be pampered with a gel manicure.

Quiz Night at Woody’s

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Kent Union is hosting a Quiz Night on Wednesday 15 May 16:00 – 18:00 in Woody’s. This will be a fun-filled evening with fantastic monetary prizes up for grabs.

This event will feature a special round dedicated to men’s mental health, raising awareness for this important issue. Entry is £1 per person with proceeds going to men’s mental health initiative Men’s Shed.

See more Mental Health Awareness Week events.

Mental Health support at Kent

Student Support and Wellbeing offer a range of mental health support including:

  • Counselling offers a safe confidential space to help you re-balance thoughts, feelings and behaviours about life in general.
  • Mental health advisers can help you with managing the impact of your mental health on your academic progress and your day-to-day wellbeing.
  • Specialist wellbeing support– practical help and advice on sexual assault or rape, discrimination, hate incidents or bullying.
  • Addiction support – manage addiction and restore control, including gaming, gambling and substance use.

Spectrum Life for 24/7 support

Our partner organisation Spectrum Life can offer you online, text and telephone support from qualified counsellors and mental health professionals.

Spectrum Life will work with you in getting initial support and help and can liaise with Student Support and Wellbeing to continue supporting you.

See Student Support and Wellbeing website.

Image of a Southeastern Train

Train Strikes During Exams

Please be aware of planned train strikes if you usually travel to campus by train. Currently industrial strike action is scheduled on Southeastern Trains for the first day of exams, Tuesday 7 May. We recognise the impact this may have on your studies and are here to support you. The Southeastern Trains website has further details and helpful information.

If you have an in-person exam on a train strike day, please make every effort to make alternative travel arrangements as these exams cannot be rescheduled and it is in your best interests to complete your exams as scheduled. Our Campus Travel updates webpage can help you plan an alternative journey.

Bed and Flex in student accommodation on campus is available to book throughout the exam period for any student wanting to take advantage of this you can find booking details here.

Travel disruption in itself is not normally a reason for mitigation (see Credit Framework for details). However, if your circumstances mean that alternative arrangements to attend your in-person exam on Tuesday 7 May are not possible, you can apply for an End Of Year Mitigation through the Extenuating Circumstances portal in Kent Vision. You will need to detail your normal travel arrangements and how you are impacted by train strike action in your request.

For all other exams related matters, please follow the usual exams guidance.

Student chilling in a hammock

Looking after your wellbeing during exams

Exams can be stressful and in stressful times we can forget to look after our own wellbeing as we focus solely on the upcoming event. Here are some tips from Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) on looking after your wellbeing during exam season.

Study spaces

It’s important to create a study space that is comfortable and away from any distractions. As tempting as it is to study in bed, creating a separation between work and rest will allow you to focus better when you are working, and switch off quicker when you rest. This will help to decrease your stress levels. Whether it’s the library, your favourite cosy café, or the kitchen table, experiment with different spaces to find what works best for you. We have amazing green spaces in the campus that are perfect in nicer weather to study in, like the Keynes duck pond or the green area by Templeman library. Our wellbeing map shows all good wellbeing locations you can use.


Recognising when to take a break is difficult, but something you will learn with time. We often become less productive when we don’t give ourselves time to rest. Whether it’s short, but frequent, study breaks or taking a day off. Dedicate blocks of time to rest from your studies, for example you can break the day in morning afternoon and evenings. It’s okay to take a day off to look after your mental health, just as you would if you were feeling ill. Make time for things that you enjoy and allow you to relax. If you need help putting together an exam study timetable you can speak to Student Learning Advisory Service (SLAS) for advice on revision planning and strategies.

Social activities 

We all tend to isolate ourselves from others for the sake of studying. However, this can often have adverse effects on how you look after your wellbeing. Dedicating time to meeting with friends not only allows you to take healthy breaks from work, but also gives you an opportunity to seek support in others. Look at what events and activities are on offer at Kent Union if you want to look for social activities and events.

Having something to look forward to is important

Lack of motivation is usually something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, especially towards the end of exam season. Having something planned for the end of exams can give you something to look forward to and work towards. This could be a concert, going out for a meal, or getting together with friends. Your big goal could be the Summer Ball. You can use countdowns to help motivate you. You can also use smaller things to look forward to day to day, for example if I do three hours of revision in a day, in the evening I can watch Netflix etc.

Being in nature

Studying all day can get you feeling pretty cooped up. Getting outside, being in nature is good for your mental wellbeing. It can help to keep you active and provide a space to think about other things than the exam or content you are working on. Perhaps go for a walk, a run or arrange to meet a friend as a break for you both.


You should never sacrifice sleep for study time. If you haven’t slept enough, no matter how much study you are doing, it will not go in. Sleep problems can often be an indication of other issues so you should always speak to your doctor if you are having long term issues with sleep. Routine is important to establish good day and evening structures. Get up at a regular time each day and try to keep a consistent bedtime. It is important to also have some downtime after study for an hour where you can decompress and empty your mind before you go to bed. Get off social media, that activates your brain. You can use various sleep mindfulness programmes. There are sleep support routines and guided support on the Spectrum Life app and you have free access to this.

Focusing on you 

It’s so easy to compare the amount of work we’ve done to our classmates. But it’s important to remember that everyone works differently and at their own pace. Have confidence in your own abilities and don’t lose faith just because you think someone has done more than you. They may not be telling the truth. We all learn differently and that is important to remember.

Setting realistic goals 

Telling yourself that you will study for an unrealistic number of hours each day is setting yourself up to fail. It takes a bit of practice and experience, but you will get to know what kind of goals are realistic for you. Setting achievable goals for each day will give you a sense of achievement and help to relieve any stress. You should spend no more than 8 hours in any day revising. After that you neglect other things like social time, relaxation time, going into nature etc. use the 8 x 8 x 8 wellbeing principle of 8 hours of work, 8 hours of relaxation, social, personal time and 8 hours of sleep.

Talking to people if you are struggling 

If you are struggling with your mental health during this time please speak to someone. You can contact SSW or contact the out of hours support provided by Spectrum. You can also speak to friends or family if you are struggling with things. The important thing is to let someone know if you feel things are unmanageable.

Having perspective 

We want you to the bets you can do in your exams but we understand that sometimes things can be difficult. All you can ever do is your best, and sometimes we make mistakes or things can get on top of us and we have a bad day. Not getting a perfect grade is not the end of the world, in the long run whilst this seems so important now it is just one small part of your life.- have that perspective. If you don’t do as well as you would have hoped there are resits, mitigation and lots of support available to you.

Living Black at Kent

The first research report into Black students’ experience in UK purpose-built student accommodation, Living Black at University was published in February 2022 by Unite Students. At the University of Kent, we wanted to respond to and act upon the findings and recommendations of the report published which had found evidence of racism, cultural insensitivity, and exclusion – all of which had a significant impact on Black students’ mental health.

A Living Black at Kent Working Group was set up in April 2023, comprising stakeholders from across the University and student union, to respond to the findings, and ten recommendations in the report listed below, thereby improving, and enhancing the lived experience for our Black students.

  1. Universities and accommodation providers should collaborate to eliminate racism from all areas of the student experience, including student accommodation.
  2. Improve acclimatisation and integration activities for all new students and extend the period over which these activities take place.
  3. Introduce meaningful race training for peers and staff.
  4. Accommodation providers should confirm a commitment to tackling racism, both in their internal policies and in their student behavioural agreement or charter
  5. Improve the representation of Black people as employees to reflect the diversity of students.
  6. Universities and accommodation providers should work together to create intentionally diverse and inclusive student accommodation.
  7. Universities and accommodation providers should collaborate to ensure mental health and wellbeing support is available, accessible, and appropriate for Black students.
  8. Ensure there are clear and accessible policies and procedures (including anonymous reporting) that deal explicitly with racism in accommodation.
  9. Accommodation providers should routinely collect, analyse, and publish relevant data on the racial diversity of their residents and employees, as well as outcomes of reporting and investigation of complaints.
  10. Accommodation providers should work to build a relationship of trust with Black students.

So far, we have looked at our acclimatisation and integration activities to ensure that we offer a diverse range of options during our welcome period, and we are making this a real focus for our ResLife programme to ensure that this continues throughout the academic year.

We have considered Kents student demographics to ensure we are providing culturally relevant services. Our catering options were reviewed as part of this, and students and suppliers were invited to a food tasting event, where we could gather feedback about our food offerings on campus. As a result, in September 2023 we launched a West Indian microbrand called Three Little Birds and are also offering a selection of African and West Indian drinks and snacks in our catering outlets.

Current residential students were invited to share what advice they would give to new students moving to Kent for the first time in terms of other culturally relevant services in the area. From this we have created a welcome booklet called ‘Living Black at Kent’ featuring peer-to-peer advice from current students, signposting to where students can find global food suppliers, Afro-Caribbean hair salons, and suggestions for student societies and faith groups.

As the Living Black at University (LBU) report is a national project, to ensure that the work we do here at Kent is relevant for our student body we included the original research questions in our 2022/23 end-of- year residential student survey to which we had a fantastic response rate, demonstrating the engagement of Kent students in this discussion.

The findings were compared with the original LBU Report findings, as well as comparing with qualitative data collected by both our EDI team and Students Union which focused on Black students’ experiences at Kent.  With this feedback data we are confident that we are improving areas at Kent that will have significant impact.

The residential survey, with the addition of the LBU elements, will run annually at Kent enabling us to respond to the current student body and measure our initiatives impact.

Most importantly is here at Kent we are open to the findings and embrace change to make positive improvements for our Black students; we look forward to sharing the results and initiatives as they evolve with you and welcome any feedback you have on the Living Black at Kent project.

Exams: Religious Observation request deadline Fri 2 Feb

Some religious days or festivals will fall during the May/June exam period and we understand that students may wish to observe these. We will therefore make every effort to avoid timetabling exams or assessments on such dates where a religious observation request has been made ahead of the deadline.

The deadline for submitting a religious observation request for the 2024 exam period is Friday 2 February 2024. Find the request form and further information on Religious Observations here.

Table with Christmas candle burning

Coping at Christmas with an eating disorder

Written by Thomas Freeston, Kent Union Vice-President Welfare and Community.

Trigger Warning: Food and Eating Disorders.

The Christmas period can be a challenging time for those struggling with their relationship with food. Food undoubtedly plays a large part in Christmas and winter celebrations. From the social aspect (e.g., work Christmas outings, Christmas food markets with friends etc.), to the traditions (e.g., Christmas dinner or advent calendars). The large focus around food consumption can be potentially triggering and exhausting.

Regardless of whether you have a diagnosed eating disorder or not, the emphasis on food can be difficult to navigate. Feelings of guilt, shame and pressure are usually common at this time.

Guilt for not eating as much as others, or for having food related difficulties during what is meant to be a joyful season.

Shame for eating more than you usually would, or for not being able to keep up to the same pace as others.

Pressure to alter your eating and exercise habits. Diet culture has created the expectation that the mere days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day are spent eating and should be followed by weeks of over exercising to compensate.

Here are some welfare tips to help you cope with the feelings that might arise due to the Christmas period:

  • Try to focus on the non-food related activities and discussions during Christmas. There is so much more that the festive season has to offer than just food! Focus on the aspects you do enjoy such as the Christmas lights or watching Christmas films or boardgames etc.
  • Make loved ones aware of avoiding questions based on food. You may decide to inform close relatives or friends to not mention these subjects as it could cause further anxiety and pressure in members who may be experiencing issues alone. For example, telling loves ones to not comment on people’s appearance or questioning what or how much food they are eating.
  • Have an exit plan – Christmas can be overwhelming to survive the holiday with an eating disorder, you may need to take some breaks. This can help you stay focused and calm. Find out where your Christmas lunch/dinner will be hosted. Work out some quiet places you can go off to and take some deep breaths just in case you need a break.
  • Signpost your family or friends to the Beat website so they have a clearer understanding of how they can support you during this time.

There is support available for you:

Beat – Eating Disorders: 0808 801 0677

Spectrum Life offers 24/7 emergency expert mental health support via phone, text, or WhatsApp.

Student Space: text STUDENT to 85258 or visit the student space website.

NHS Eating Disorders: Visit the NHS website to learn more.

candy cane heart

Happy Christmas feeling like a tall order? Tips for coping with complicated feelings in the holidays

Perhaps you love Christmas and all the traditions, from music to present wrapping to treats, but if it brings up difficult memories or makes you feel anxious, you aren’t alone in that feeling. The forthcoming holiday can cause a mixture of complicated situations and emotions, such as family and relationship conflict, anxiety around relationships, worries about food, coping with grief, or feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you’re missing out. Even if you look forward to the holidays, it’s normal to experience periods of stress or difficulty, when your environment changes after a term studying.

We asked Rachel, a Mental Health Adviser at Kent’s Student Support and Wellbeing who offers specialist support to care leavers and students who are estranged from their families, what tips would you give everyone for coping with complicated feelings during the holidays?

Make a plan, take control 

What are the main issues you will face? Loneliness, or overwhelm surrounded by too many people? Think through the days that might be particularly difficult and plan extra support and connection, or breaks from the busyness. If you want to escape/ learn/ relax online without a known group, you could look up things to join in with via Eventbrite, searching by your interests.

Set your intentions

Whether it’s sleep, how you eat, how much you drink, where exercise plays a role, or whether you engage in certain conversations, set your intentions in advance so you can feel more in control in the moment.

Identify your coping skills

What makes you feel better when you’re struggling? Taking a nap? Going for a walk alone or with someone else? If you’re staying on/ near the Canterbury or Medway campus, or nearby, you can sign up to Walking Buddy to be matched with another student who wants to meet and go for a walk locally. Do you want to stay busy and make new friends at Kent? Check out the calendar for details of what’s on until the end of term and beyond, including games and puzzles you can borrow over the holidays. Does meditation help you? You could connect with the Mindfulness Society before the end of term, or check out some free mindfulness apps. Would curling up with a comfort book, or a pick me up playlist help? You can borrow from Templeman and Drill Hall Libraries, including fiction and digital media. Think about it in advance so you can have those things ready to reach for when it’s all getting a bit much.

Don’t compare – live your holiday the best way you can

Try not to compare your experiences, feelings and relationships to others’, and instead allow yourself to be present in your life without judgement.

Find support

It’s okay to not be okay during the holidays and reach out for support when you need it. Student Support and Wellbeing offices are open after the end of the university term until Tuesday 19 December, and then closed from Wednesday 20 December until Tuesday 2 January 2024. During this closure, there are lots of emergency contacts available to support you wherever you find yourself during vacation.

Our mental health partner organisation, Spectrum Life, is available for crisis support throughout vacation. Spectrum Life provide.

For expert information tailored to students from Student Minds, check out the Christmas resources on the Student Space website, which provides also provides telephone, email, webchat and text support. There is more information about Christmas and mental health from the charity, Mind.

The charity Rees Foundation works to ensure that people leaving care have support networks in place, and are not left alone to tackle life’s challenges, and run some ‘Let’s Connect’ projects, connecting people with other members of the care experienced community.

24/7 Support, even during vacation

University of Kent students wherever they are located can access free, 24/7 online support for issues around mental health and wellbeing via Togetherall, and online platform overseen by qualified therapists which recognised nationally through awards by the NHS and is a safe environment. Togetherall can provide peer talk therapies where members initiate or join forums on topics ranging from depression and anxiety to relationship issues, work stress, abuse, self-harm and eating disorders, improving motivation and self-awareness. There are also online courses which can be taken any time, and brief counselling providing immediate 24/7 support from Guides who are trained counsellors.

Our partner organisation Spectrum Life is available for in-the-moment emotional and practical support for emotional distress or concerns about your mental health during vacation. They offer online, text and telephone support from qualified counsellors and mental health professionals, and will work with you in getting initial support and help, and can liaise with University Student Support and Wellbeing when they are next available to continue supporting you. Telephone 0800 0318227 and press option 1, Text/WhatApp ‘Hi’ to +44 (0)7418 360780, or search for the Spectrum Life app from your app store and follow the log in instructions, using organisation code ud3Z2brH.

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

Christmas prsents with rainbow paper and a LGBT+ friendly mug

Being LGBTQ+ at Christmas

Written by Thomas Freeston, Kent Union Vice-President Welfare and Community.

Like in the song, Christmas is often described as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. However, the reality for some LGBTQ+ people is that Christmas and its association are a much less positive time of year. It can be difficult going back home to a family that does not accept you for who you are, or perhaps having to hide your true identity.

Below are a few tips to help you during the Winter break:

  • Figure out friends you can call and text: Have a friend or two on standby that you can reach out to if you feel stressed or scared or if you’re family says something messed up. It’s useful to have someone you can chat to or vent to if needed.
  • Make time to be alone: Spending time with many people can be exhausting, especially unsupportive ones! Make time to sit in bed away from it all; go outside or do what you need.
  • Celebrate the holidays with your chosen family too: Remember to celebrate holidays with the people in your life who are supportive.
  • Prepare yourself for any questions that tend to come up at family gatherings: There are many questions that come up such as partner, kids, jobs etc. Know how you will respond to these. By doing this you will boost your confidence and reduce the anxiety you may be feeling. Only share what your comfortable with.

The most important thing to remember is that even though no one else is around, you are never alone. There is an entire community of people who care about and who love you.

There is support available for you:

Spectrum Life offers 24/7 emergency expert mental health support via phone, text, or WhatsApp.

Student Space: text STUDENT to 85258 or visit the student space website.

LGBT+ Switchboard: Phone us at 0300 330 0630 open every day between 10:00 – 22:00.


cartoon of to women huddled together with a larger than life hand above them, sheltering them from rain

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 

Every year on the 25th of November, the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. But why this specific date? The answer lies in a tragic event that sparked an international movement. On 25th November 1960, the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic, were brutally murdered on orders of the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo. Since 1981, women’s rights activists have used this date to raise awareness of gender-based violence and campaign for its end. This day serves as a stark reminder of the violence many women and individuals who identify as women still face, even in the year 2023. 

Let’s look at statistics

49 countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence. 37 countries worldwide still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim. And only two-thirds of countries have outlawed domestic violence. These figures paint a grim picture of the global state of affairs when it comes to violence against women. 

Expect Respect at Kent

Every individual, irrespective of their gender, deserves to feel safe on campus. In light of this, here at the University of Kent we have a clear and strong message: we do not accept any forms of violence or abuse. But this commitment isn’t just a hollow promise. We believe that everyone has the power to do something about unacceptable behaviour. 

Even if you’re not directly involved, if you witness any lack of respect, bullying, or abuse, you have a choice. You can call out the behaviour and report it.  We believe that everyone’s voice matters and everyone can contribute to building a safer community. 

If you see abusive behaviour, call it out 

If you wish to report any incidents, the ‘REPORT + SUPPORT’ is our confidential online reporting tool. You can report and get advice about sexual misconduct and abuse, domestic abuse and stalking, physical and verbal abuse, spiking, harassment or bullying, discrimination or hate incidents. You can choose to report anonymously or get support from an adviser.  If you wish to submit a report, provide details for our team to follow up on, or simply learn more, visit the Report and Support webpage. It’s a step towards taking control, getting support, and building a safer community. 

Upcoming support events

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we have organised the following events:

  • At Kent Sport on 7 Dec at midday there is a free self-defence class available for all students who identify as women, and non binary people.
  • There are also giveaways taking place on 28 November and 6 December in Medway. At the giveaways you can get free torches, gadgets to prevent drink spiking, condoms and more. There will also be specialist wellbeing advisers to talk through questions or concerns, or find out more about reporting issues.

Learn more

Want to learn more about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women? You can navigate to the dedicated United Nations page to find out more about the scale of the problem and the initiatives that aim to pave the way towards a world free of gender-based violence. 


Transgender Pride Flag

Transgender Awareness Week, 13-19 November

Did you know that one in every hundred students in our Kent community has said that they identify as transgender or gender non-conforming? However we suspect this number might be much higher.

13-19 November is Transgender Awareness Week, which aims to:

  • raise awareness of the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people
  • share stories of transgender people in our society
  • advance advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community.

Recent figures show that the number of UK students who define themselves as neither male nor female has more than doubled in the last two years. LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall explains that people are becoming increasingly confident to be themselves, thanks to more social acceptance and visibility of different sexual and gender identities.

The big impact of small actions

At Kent we hope to further our inclusive community, eradicate prejudice, and support one another.

On this subject, Lynne Regan, a senior member of the Student Support and Wellbeing team on the Medway campus, who also recently completed her Doctorate on the experiences of trans students at uni, explains how small actions of recognition and awareness of trans students can have a big impact:

“Rainbow lanyards are available for staff and students from most college and library receptions at Canterbury and Medway. Designed around the ‘Inclusion Flag’ which incorporates the Pride rainbow flag with pink, blue, brown and black representing the trans community and people of colour within the LGBT+ community. Wearing the lanyards shows students that they can ‘bring their whole selves’ to you without fear of judgement or an unsupportive reaction. One of the interview participants in my study stated “I love that many of the lecturers wear these lanyards with the rainbow pattern on them, which signals to the students that they are LGBTQ+ allies and can be approached… I like that I have someone I can actually turn to very visibly… It makes me feel very welcome.”

“Another thing you can do is to use inclusive language and respect pronouns. If someone has told you the pronouns that they use, then respect this. Use the pronouns they have asked you to use. Do not assume pronouns based on the way someone looks or sounds.”

Support for students at Kent

  • There is a support group in Canterbury that meets twice a month. It is open to trans, intersex and non-binary people at Kent. The group is run by trans/non-binary people for trans/non-binary people. Family and partners are welcome.
  • There are gender-neutral toilet facilities across our Canterbury and Medway campuses.
  • Student Support and Wellbeing offer free mental health support, counselling and peer support groups to all students and have an advisor with specialist LGBTQ+ support knowledge.
  • Check out our directory of LGBTQ+ self-help resources including details of free, confidential, specialist helplines and support group networks, such as Metro, The Be You Project, and Gendered Intelligence.
  • You can also update your gender and preferred name (which shows on your Microsoft Teams account) on KentVision.
  • Have you heard of the Gender Affirmation Fund? The fund supports students who identify as transgender, non binary or gender non-conforming with the purchase of gender affirming items such as binders, clothing, packers, makeup, hair extensions, pouches, Stand To Pee devices, gendered religious headwear or clothing and minor cosmetic procedures such as ear piercing or for managing body hair.

Experienced hate or discrimination because of your gender identity?

You can report incidents of assault, harassment, and hate via the REPORT + SUPPORT tool, with or without giving your name. Even if you don’t choose to request support, by reporting an incident you will help to make the University a safer place for all.

Help us create a university community which belongs to all students, and where all students feel they belong by sharing this information on transgender awareness. #InclusiveKent