Sian Hampson looks back on the past two years as your VP Community and Welfare

I can’t believe it has been two years as your Vice President Community and Welfare – I have been so honoured to hold this position and I really hope I have done a good job. When our marketing team asked us to put together a review of our year, I’m not going to lie, I put it off. I guess I didn’t want to admit this great adventure was ending! But, I thought enough is enough, and I should get on with it and write it (mainly because I kept getting chased up over it!). So here we are, my highlights and reflections on the last year:

World Suicide Prevention Day

With suicide being the leading cause of death in people aged 20-30 (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/suicide) it is essential that we as a community stand up and talk about this topic that is often brushed under the carpet. After losing some of our own students to suicide, it is clearer than ever that it is essential that we as a students’ union mark this day, and speak openly on this topic. This year the President team ran the Glenside Colour run for Papyrus, the Prevention of Young Suicide Charity. We fundraised an amazing £914 which will help deliver crucial support to young people, as well as supporting family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide.

World Mental Health Day

A month later we marked World Mental Health Day, bringing in lots of student volunteers to show our students that it’s OK not to be OK. We buddied up with our friends from Lush who donated their ‘Sleepy’ body lotion that we could give out to students. We also launched the Wellbeing Survey which saw 1,967 students respond. Some of the findings were awful, but it gave us a whole wealth of data to help improve the lives of our students. This information is being used by the university, and changes have already been made.

Kate and Helen

In November we had Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh in to talk about mental health and LGBT+ inclusion in sport. It was a very inspiring event, and quite emotional. There was also a chance for students to ask Helen and Kate questions, and to get a few pictures!

‘Is there a student mental health crisis?’ panel

This event saw the Vice Chancellor, NUS Black Students Officer, NUS VP Welfare, UWE Nightline and Off the Record come together to discuss this important topic. After getting the survey results from the wellbeing survey each panellist had a chance to give their view on the subject, then the discussion was opened to the floor. It was an excellent opportunity for our students to speak to the Vice Chancellor and ask him about the support services at UWE. The event also got coverage from Bristol 24/7 and BBC Radio Bristol.

Alcohol Impact Accreditation

In January we achieved our Alcohol Impact Accreditation, with an amazing score of 282/360 (the threshold was 192). The accreditation showed The Students’ Union and the University’s continued commitment to promoting the safer consumption of alcohol, and making our spaces more inclusive for all.

SHAG Week

Next was Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance Week, which was a joint project with myself, Erin and LGBTplus Society. We used this opportunity to talk about sexual health, healthy relationships, and consent. We worked with the Terrance Higgins Trust who ran three HIV Fast Test Clinics on Glenside and Frenchay. We also reran our Chlamydia Test Drive, asking our sports clubs to encourage their members to take Chlamydia tests. The club who got the most members tested won £50 in budget.

Rent Freeze

After two years of lobbying we managed to get UWE to freeze their on campus rent prices – which is amazing! This was alongside many other universities increasing their rent by 2-3%. Whilst there is still a bit of a way to go with lobbying for free laundry, and hopefully eventually decreasing the rent prices here at UWE, we have made a great start!

Welfare Awards

We rounded up the year with our very first Welfare Awards, and what an event it was! Our key note speaker, Helen Richardson-Walsh, spoke about her experiences of mental ill health, the support she received, and what helped her during her more difficult experiences. We had some very deserving winners, and it was so nice to see how far we have come in developing strong welfare campaigns.

Nightline

Last but not least, my biggest achievement in office has been opening UWE Nightline. For those who don’t know, Nightline offers out of hours student support every night of the term. We have already taken many calls, and been there for students when they felt like no one else was. The volunteers and the committee of Nightline deserve the upmost praise and respect for the amazing work that they do. I know that even if they didn’t get this, they would continue doing what they do, because they genuinely care about our students.

So there we are, that was my year! I want to end by thanking The Students’ Union staff for all the support they have given me, and all they have taught me. I believe I have grown a lot in the last two years, and you have certainly helped.

I would also like to thank the staff at UWE Bristol, whilst we haven’t always agreed on things it has been great to build a strong relationship with you through mutual respect and understanding. I hope this continues next year.