Beat the Bullys

Starting University is a scary time, leaving the comfort of your home and your family is one that stirs up feelings of fear mixed with excitement. Excitement of meeting new friends, starting a new life, being a fresher and most importantly, taking the first step on your path to your dream career.

But what if your visions of fantastic new friends and happiness is not what you arrive too? What if you are faced with homesickness, pressure towards sex, drugs and alcohol, and even more unexpected, bullying? Unfortunately, this happens – and having witnessed, and experienced, first hand all of these things, I want to make a change.

No one expects bullying or unhappiness as a fresher. But I know people, and sadly quite a few, who dropped out of university during first year because of difficulty to fit in or make friends, difficulty to settle in another city and be away from their loved ones, and even ones who found the pressure for drugs, sex and alcohol too much. People who – because they have wanted to focus more on their studies, or who may not be the prettiest or the skinniest, have been victims too bullying. No one relates bullying at university, in fact – it is mostly seen as more of primary or secondary school behaviour but unfortunately, bullying happens everywhere; in schools, university and even the workplace.

It’s such a shame that the students who faced this dropped out of university. They sacrificed their career and their university experience just because they had no one to turn too. And that’s where I come in. I want to set up a society for students who may be experiencing any of this – difficulty settling in, making new friends, peer pressure or bullying. It will be a place where they can come to seek advice on confidence issues, safe sex or use of drugs or alcohol or to talk in confidentiality about the problems they are facing. They will be able to talk too others who may be experiencing the same thing and weekly groups and mentoring sessions will be held. There will be someone available 24/7 via phone, e-mail, or just to meet for a chat whenever they are feeling down.

It will include an online and offline community. Social networks and a website will allow people to find the information and advice they need all the time and be able to contact someone. The offline community will consist of meetings, socials, one-to-one mentoring sessions and drop-in sessions.

So – what do I need from my fantastic readers? Basically – your support. Basically, this is just an idea. One I want to implement, but without support and help, something I will find difficult to do. As you may be aware, I am currently completing my one year placement and I will not be returning to University until September 2012. I want to set it up in my Student Union but as I will not be back at the University for another year this is a little unrealistic. I do not want to sit on it till then, I want to get it into action right away – but I will need help, support and advice. (I haven’t even thought of a name!)

I want to get a twitter account set up and a website, but without a name I can’t do this yet. So if anyone has any creative suggestions for a name, please let me know! Also, I’d like to know if anyone has experienced anything similar that I have mentioned in this post, whether it was at University or when you were five years old. I’d love for you to get on board as a mentor and offer your support and advice to others and just help me with the process basically.

All comments, opinions, suggestions and offers welcome!

Thanks 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Beat the Bullys

  1. This is an important issue – and yours is a heartfelt plea.

    I’m aware of the problems many first year students face in settling into a new town, and how social worries can become issues with studying. I still think the social aspects are still the best reason to go to university, as it’s about growing up and learning about yourself more than it’s about learning a specific subject.

    University lecturers only gain a limited picture of their students’ lives, but I’m sure that universities and the Students Union would say they provide lots of support for students outside the classroom.

    Good luck with the campaign, and in finding a way to work with and add value to the existing support on offer.

    1. I agree with you that the University offers support but through my own and others experience there is no specific society or person to go too to talk about such issues. By offering a clear service which aims at a direct problem, it may make it clearer who to turn too for those seeking help and support in this area.

      I hope it may also eliminate some of the fear which comes in talking about this subject, as some may be afraid to talk about such sensitive issues with their tutor or lecturer, and may find it easier to talk to a fellow student who has been through a similar experience.

  2. I was trained as a peer listener in secondary school, it basically meant that we learnt how to react and give advice to the younger students in a way that didn’t get any of us in ‘trouble’. They could come to us sixth formers at break or lunch to talk about any issues they had, the main topic that came up was bullying within friendship groups. This made them feel even more alone as they couldn’t talk to friends or family about it, it was a really disheartening yet rewarding experience.

    The system was flawed, but for the most part it seemed to work, I am assuming you’re looking at setting up a similar service? i think it’s a fantastic idea, it’s one of those things where no one will want to go at first, but I reckon over time it would catch on and become effective.

    1. Jazz – I was also a peer mentor during sixth form! It would be brilliant if you would be willing to get on board as you have the experience in talking to people who will be going through this. Thank you for your support.

  3. Few lecturers are qualified to offer counselling – and many would see it as well outside the job description. I think anonymous peer support could well be the way to go on this. The Samaritans may be the nearest existing service.

  4. I became so close to quitting my first year of University for a variety of different reasons. The focus on drink didn’t appeal to me (my parents are very liberal so alcohol was a vice well discovered) and sex really didn’t bother me (Shock! I’m a guy that didn’t want a sleep around with everyone).

    Anyway… when things became too much I ran away from the University in a state of depression and found myself lost in Bristol. After much convincing I returned that evening to University.

    The University of Gloucestershire has Help Zones based on each campus, they are there to give students support. Over time I became much more stable at University but have been called back to talk with students who were dealing with depression (I went through childline training in 2008 which helps with the added experience).

    So what you have written in this blog post is both true and important. I am in full support of it. I hate to see students struggling with the social norms of University life, especially see the talented escape from it.

    1. Thank you very much for your honesty and your support Michael – I am sorry to hear that you went through that.

      I am glad that you find support at your university, and it makes me wonder that if you hadn’t – whether you may have gone back. That is exactly why I want to implement this at my University, to help others to find support when they experience what you and I, and so many others, have.

      I will look into the help zones you mention at your University, because they seem like fantastic ideas. If you are interested in getting involved with the campaign at all, please let me know. But thank you for your fantastic support!

      1. Keep me in the loop with how things are going. I can’t promise a large role in this project as I’m not sure if I will have the time. However I am experienced with the technical side of servers, domains, websites, etc.

  5. Check out http://www.theCALMzone.net – we work with all 4 universities on Merseyside and promote as a credible and independent option for students. We can’t afford to run our helpline 24hrs nor can we set up a centre but what we do is reach people where they are at and try and engage people in considering how they look after themselves before they reach crisis.

    1. Hi Simon, thank you for your comment. I worked alongside Claire Anstey who introduced me to CALM and she, and the organisation, was a main motivator in setting this up. Id love to talk to you more for any tips and advice you may have. Regards

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