This week from 9th-15th of May is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we’re focusing particularly on this year's theme of loneliness.
From living away from home for the first time to the lasting impact of the recent pandemic, University life can feel very isolating, leading to feelings of loneliness. Taking care of your mental health and wellbeing is vital, so here at Leeds Art Union, we want to highlight the communities available to you here at the university to help you build your own network and alleviate loneliness!
Societies provide a great community of people with similar interests or backgrounds, whether that be the Anime society, International society or the Raise and Give society! They are run by students, for students, with a total of 26 societies available.
There are endless opportunities to meet up with new friends and build your own community within a society, but if you don't see one that suits you, you can also start your own! Schedule regular meet-ups, events and activities to keep you connected with your peers and share your passion with other like-minded students. Societies are also a great opportunity to get out and about regularly, providing structured and stable socialisation periods, which can drastically help when dealing with loneliness.
“It was nice to move away from an art focus, outside of my course and come together with other students in a neutral space where everyone felt comfortable. With the focus on self care especially, it was wholesome and therapeutic to be with like-minded people and check in with how I was feeling. I made a really good friend through the society who I’m still in touch with now despite them graduating. I’d have never crossed paths with them without pushing myself out of my comfort zone and attending a society meeting!”
– Alicia Cookson, L6 Fine Art (Self Care Society member 20/21)
Check out our societies here
The Buddy Scheme
The Buddy Scheme is also an excellent way to build friendships, community and tackle loneliness. Arranged by the Union, The Buddy Scheme connects you with a fellow student and provides an opportunity to chat about your course and how you’re finding University.
Buddies can help in so many ways to better your experience here at LAU; introducing you to new people, building your confidence to join a new society or connecting you with events that suit you!
Whether you want to get a buddy or be a buddy, it is great for building connections.
The University is currently looking for returning students to act as buddies for new students so if it’s something of interest then why not sign up? You can find out more information about The Buddy Scheme here.
Make A Connection Scheme
Similar to the Buddy Scheme, the Art Union also runs the Make A Connection scheme!
Make a Connection initially started as a way to connect international or isolating students in order to provide support to one another, and to ease loneliness. The scheme now serves to connect a range of students across Leeds Art University, whether you want to branch out or need some extra support and community.
Perhaps you want a sober buddy to attend events and exhibitions with? Or someone to meet for coffee? Whatever it is, the Make A Connection scheme can be here to help you make those meaningful connections, build friendships and alleviate loneliness.
If you’d like to sign up for the Make A Connection Scheme all you need to do is fill in the Google Form linked here and we’ll try and match you with someone who has similar interests!
Academic Support Group
Finally, The Academic Support Group can also provide you with connections to your peers through regular social groups and meetings.
In the last year, Academic Support have been running an evening online social group for autistic students in both FE and HE, providing a real community of folks who are given the opportunity to connect with others in an easier way than busy classrooms. Don’t just take it from us, see what Jodi Miller a L5 Comic and Concept Art student has to say:
“It is a positive experience, we get to meet people with the same brain waves, we all get each other and work towards understanding each other. We also bring attention to issues that we all experience in the university that can get addressed.
Some of us have made friends with each other so it has been a nice way to meet friends. Getting people to talk is useful as we get other people’s perspectives as well as new resources we could use.
It is just nice to talk to people, because it is a group of people in which you can talk, not like a busy classroom. As we are all the same and not the same, we have something in common to begin with. You can talk about the basic autistic experiences and we can then move on to other things. We don’t tend to do small talk, it is nice having no small talk, we just get to talk about cool things. I want to know more than just small talk, not like just how your day was.
Conversation topics are helpful. Not having a strict agenda is good, it means it is open so that anything can be talked about.“
Loneliness is difficult to cope with on your own, and sometimes being a university student can be incredibly isolating. Building your community is vital in tackling loneliness, but if you are really struggling, please do reach out to a trusted person, us here in the Union or Student Welfare.
You can also check out our blog post on the Mental Health Foundations’ Student Loneliness Guide here.