Pawsitive Thinking: Walk My Dog initiative helping Brighton students with their mental health and wellbeing

Pawsitive thinking: Walk My Dog initiative at University of Brighton

Students at the University of Brighton will be able to go ‘walkies’ with university staff and their dogs as part of a week-long programme of activities focused on mental health and wellbeing.

This year’s Wellbeing Week takes place from 13-17 November and is based around the themes of mental, physical, financial, spiritual, environmental and social wellbeing. A range of advice and activities are taking place for students and staff at the University’s campuses in Brighton and Eastbourne.

Walk My Dog is one of the most popular events in the University calendar and is a paw-some way for students and dog-owning staff to get out into the beautiful East Sussex countryside, with all students getting the opportunity to take the lead – literally – for an hour’s walk. Following previous sessions, over 90% of students reported feeling more positive, while over 60% said that it helped them feel less overwhelmed.

Patt Wrangles, Head of Student Wellbeing at the University of Brighton, said:

“We’re lucky that each campus has beautiful surroundings in which students and staff can spend time together as a community. The termly Walk My Dog events are always popular and are just one of the creative ways we work with students to promote good physical and mental health at the University of Brighton.”

Susan De Jesus, Student Wellbeing Promotion and Development Lead, is leading a walk from the Moulsecoomb campus, starting at Manor House before heading up onto the South Downs. Susan said:

“I think young people feel a lot of pressure to conform to other people’s standards and to achieve, but dogs are simply happy to be out with them in the mud playing with a stick! These walks provide a break from studies and students have said that it has helped them cope with homesickness. It also helps to introduce them to the amazing countryside that surrounds each of our campuses. Students often say that they didn’t even know that these places existed so near to whey they’re studying.

“Our staff really enjoy seeing students loving their dogs and it provides a real community-building experience. I’ve had quite deep conversations with students that I would never have had if we were sitting across a desk.”

“There is no pressure to talk – it’s a low stakes social situation, you can either just walk and enjoy being out or you can chat away with new friends.”

Other activities taking place during Wellbeing Week include drop-in sessions with student support and guidance tutors (SSGTs), the opportunity to try out a range of different sports, mindfulness drawing and colouring sessions, advice on financial wellbeing, a silent space and a Samaritans stand. An event for mature students and those who are parents gives adults the opportunity to network while kids are entertained with a bouncy castle, face painting, bowling and more.

Wellbeing Week highlights the wide range of assistance and advice available to students at the University. As well as the SSGTs who help students with a range of issues impacting their studies there are also Learning Support Coordinators who can help students with learning support plans; counselling services; a Health Services team for students experiencing health issues or just wanting to stay healthy; the Disability and Dyslexia team; LGBTQ+ support which includes a mentoring programme with American Express; a Residential Wellbeing team supporting students in halls, Faith advisors, the Student Advice Service which can support on finance-related issues and services for students who become pregnant or a parent during studies. Students can also access a safe, anonymous online community with tools to help students cope and share experiences through Togetherall.

The University’s mentoring programme is also available to provide support, build confidence and help students fulfil their potential.

And students can also take part in online training to learn more about building and maintaining their own wellbeing and helping their friends by becoming a Wellbeing Champion.

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