Crafternooning for Mind and Winter Wellbeing Support

A great time was had by all recently at our two winter wellbeing crafternoon events. Of particular note was the creativity unleashed on our gingerbread figures, resulting in oompa loompas, a gingerbread Santa and some particularly snazzy outfits involving brightly-coloured sprinkles! However, underlying the festive snacks, biscuit decorating and general merriment was a serious message. The purpose of the event was to fund-raise and raise awareness of the mental health charity Mind.

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Some of our wonderful creations at our Mind crafternoon event!

Since 1946, Mind, originally the National Association for Mental Health, has been working to provide empowering advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem and to nurture a culture of support and respect. We loved the idea of a crafternoon for all that it represented; a chance to take a break from study, come together to strengthen existing connections and make new ones and open up dialogues around mental health, not to mention having fun!

Mind, and indeed KCL, recognise that for a variety of reasons, the holiday season can be a time of year that provokes strong emotions and may prove a source of additional stress and strain.  For this reason, it’s important that we take care of ourselves, are kind to ourselves and each other and know where to turn for support with our wellbeing.  Whatever we’re going through, there is help at hand if we know where to look.

With this in mind, we’ve collated some helpful resources on self-care over the winter and sources of wellbeing and mental health-related support.

  • Winter Wellbeing Guide: Includes fun hints and tips on how to keep each one of the King’s Ways to Wellbeing in check over winter and some organisations to contact if we need help and support over the holiday period.
  • Christmas in London: a summary of what is going on in London, alternative options for Christmas Day and King’s student services over the winter break.
  • KCL Global Lounge: A space at the Waterloo Campus open during the holiday period for KCL students staying in London to come together.  The space will be staffed by student ambassadors and there will be games, light refreshments and films.
  • Global Lounge Facebook Group 
  • Stand Alone Festive Guide, for people experiencing familial estrangement.
  • Kyle’s Blog for Mind on coping with depression and anxiety at Christmas.
  • Mind Infoline: Want to talk about mental health? Mind’s Infoline is there for you.
  • Samaritans provides emotional support 24/7 every day of the year over the phone and is open for face-to-face visits at its central London office throughout the festive season.
  • Sources of assistance or immediate support in the local community 

However you’re spending the holidays, King’s Wellbeing wishes you the very best and will be here for you again with more wellbeing-related events and activities in the New Year.

A Cheap and Cheerful Christmas!

This time of year can really stretch the purse strings.  If you’re keeping an eye on your finances but looking to get into the festive spirit, look no further than this blog post from student Money Mentor Claire.

Cheap and Cheerful Christmas

You may be slightly scared by the holidays, and think that you need to start checking down the side of the sofa for any spare coins, as Christmas is always seen as a holiday which will stretch you thin. But it is time to change that misconception. Here are some easy ways to have fun in the festive season on a budget.

 Homemade gifts

Do not underestimate your creativity and artistic skills. Yes you may stick your hands together with PVA glue and spend ages peeling it off, but that is part of the fun. It is amazing how much you can do with ribbon and pompoms. You can find them from any arts and crafts shop and although glitter may be messy when you are making cards for your friends and family, the sparkle you add for the snow is quite breath-taking and far more personal than any card from WHSmith.crafternon

 

Some homemade cards, decorations and festive gifts from King’s Wellbeing’s recent crafternoon event in aid of mental health charity Mind.

 

 

If you are stuck on gift ideas, check out this website for a list of homemade presents and links to tutorials so you can do it yourself: https://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/cheap-and-easy-last-minute-diy-gifts-theyll-actually-want?utm_term=.pjJv8n2z9#.xyMRLvwAy

If you are a baker, then now is your time to throw on the apron and oven mits.  Pintrest and other websites have a huge collection of recipes (https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/christmas-recipes/) but if you are ever in doubt, add cinnamon or nutmeg to whatever you are baking and it is bound to make the kitchen smell wonderful and festive.

Carolling

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la, la la la la. (I bet you sang that in your head didn’t you?)carollers

Well, why not try singing out loud? Christmas carolling is a long lost tradition which I feel should be brought back to life. Grab your mittens and woolly hats and go singing with your friends! It is a lovely way to spend the evening with your nearest and dearest. Belt your heart out (don’t worry, mulled wine can help if you are feeling a bit shy). It is Christmas after all – the season of joy and goodwill – so your neighbours are sure to smile and may even join in, or offer you a mince pie for your efforts.

 Christmas Dinner

Warning: Do NOT go shopping on Christmas eve or even two days before that. The queues are likely to be huge and people can get aggressive when you are both eyeing up the last turkey on the shelf.

Make a list and stock up. There are often great offers on mince pies and nibbles so keep your eyes peeled. Carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts also become very cheap in the weeks leading up to Christmas so why not buy extra? Cook a lot on Christmas day and then freeze the leftovers. Or just keep the extra veg in the fridge for a week later. Check the packets and buy the ones with long best before dates.

If you are having a whole turkey or chicken, don’t throw away the bones! They make a lovely soup which will help you keep warm in the chilly evenings and you can even add those extra carrots you bought to squeeze in one of your five a day. (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/moms_turkey_soup/)

Honestly though, after Christmas if when you get the real bargains. Supermarkets always overbuy and try to frantically get rid of stock in January so, even if you may be sick of figgy pudding at the moment, February blues is bound to make you go back to those Christmas cravings, so buy it while it is cheap and indulge in a post-Christmas pick-me-up!

Finally, I hate to be cheesy, but it is honestly true – Christmas isn’t about saving or spending money. It is about being with friends and family and creating priceless memories together. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!’

Don’t forget that our Money Mentors are here all year round during term to give guidance on making the most of your money, whatever your budget.  For specialist and detailed advice on your financial options please contact the Student Advice team. 

Volunteering for Samaritans – Shannon’s Experience Part 2

King’s alumna Shannon’s experience as a University Outreach Volunteer for Samaritans was challenging, rewarding and gave her pause for thought. In this installment of our blog series on mental wellbeing, Shannon outlines the duties she undertook as part of her role and describes the impact it had on her own perspective of mental health. Samaritans right way up

My Role

 As I was unable to dedicate the hours that would be required to become a listening volunteer, I opted to take on a role in the outreach division – which resulted in one of the most positive and fulfilling experiences of my life. In this role, it was my responsibility to contact universities (the counselling services, libraries, university halls, student societies, and more) to organise meetings with those who we might be able to assist in promoting the Samaritans to students.

Upon meeting with university staff in their respective divisions, I was surprised to find them enthusiastic about advertising our services, having been worried that it might be perceived as potential competition. However, the vast majority of counselling services were happy to have us on board, seeing us a means of additional support for their students- particularly those on the services waiting list.

samaritans

Thus, it was apparent to me that Samaritans was generally welcomed by university mental health services. The wellbeing of the students was paramount, and Samaritans already had a good name- it sold itself. Hence it took little effort on my part to arrange meetings with university facilities where I could talk about the full range of services that Samaritans had to offer, and what would be of most benefit to students. In conjunction with this, I focused on getting Samaritans advertised via various electronic means: in emails that got sent to students, on their webpages, on the counselling services application site, and all over the university on plasma screens where possible (i.e. campuses and libraries). This was so that students were aware that Samaritans knew how stressful university could be- and that they wanted to help.

The role also altered my own perspective on mental illness. Whilst I had my own experiences with it, and did not view it as something that should be stigmatised, it became clear through working at Samaritans just how limited my understanding was. The people who worked there were so much more open than me- and needed to be if they were going to be on the telephone, facing individuals with problems that I myself might find difficult to empathise with. However, as advertised, the service is completely judgment free – this means that no matter what the problem, or what the caller is experiencing, the volunteers wanted to hear it. samaritans number

Working in this role taught me that mental illness can take many forms: it wasn’t limited to existential depression, but rather could be triggered by any number of factors: from routine boredom to the loss of a loved one. All callers are offered the same befriending service- Samaritans understood that small triggers can lead to some pretty big feelings, something that I was taught during my time there.

I also learnt a lot about the vast amount of services that were offered at universities in an attempt to assist students who may be suffering from mental illness. This is particularly pertinent with the newly formed wellbeing service at King’s, and also the  peer listening volunteers trained by the Counselling Service. The support networks for struggling students were expanding, and it was evident to me that mental health was finally being treated with the importance that it deserved. Samaritans wanted to be part of this development in university culture, and encouraged the openness with which mental health was finally being addressed. WP_20160204_12_09_16_Pro

Shannon with some of the KCL peer supporters and Freddie and Julia from King’s Sport and King’s Wellbeing at last year’s ‘Time to Talk’ event.

One example of my active involvement during my time with Samaritans, whilst being a student myself at Kings, was taking part  in the ‘Time to Talk’ event run by the recently set up King’s Wellbeing team. The role consisted of manning a stall and going out from this base to approach students to encourage conversations around mental health. This simple job proved incredibly challenging at first- approaching cliques of students who seemed to be having DMCs was no easy task! However, once we got talking with some of them, it became apparent that the majority had encounters with mental illness- be it a personal experience, or a vicarious one through a friend or a loved one. The event was all about removing the stigma around mental health  and working towards an environment that was open to talking about emotional problems – without regarding them a sign of individual weakness, as has long been the case. It was all about encouraging individuals to broach the day-to-day stresses that, if left unacknowledged, could have serious implications: an initiative that Samaritans had been encouraging since it first began in 1953.

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The quickest way to contact the Samaritans and get a response is by phone on 116 123, this number is FREE to call 24 hours a day. You can also contact them via email, text, the web and by letter. http://www.samaritans.org/   

Samaritans phone lines will be open 24/7 throughout Christmas and new year  and their centre in central London is  open for face-to-face visitors between 9am and 9pm every day throughout this period.