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Student wellbeing café is regional first

A café run by students for students to help social isolation has been officially launched at the University of Plymouth.

A first for the South West, the wellbeing café is one of only three in the country and aims to connect, inspire and provide a space for those students who might not be thriving in ‘typical’ University life.

Named S.P.A.C.E (Socialise, Play, Aspire, Connect and Enjoy), the café was the brainchild of the University’s Learning Support and Wellbeing team, and was designed based on academic research that highlights how students who feel lonely are at greater risk of developing mental health problems.

This project is an opportunity for Plymouth to pioneer wellbeing provision that engages students as partners in the development of healthier campus communities.

Research into the café’s effectiveness will also be carried out as the project progresses – providing new insight as a ‘first’ for the higher education sector.

Anne Bentley, Manager of Student Wellbeing Services at the University of Plymouth, explained why the project was so important.

University is a brilliant time for lots of people, but some students can feel isolated, lonely and not really sure of what to do for the best,” she said. “A wellbeing café offers students companionship and compassionate support from trained students that could mitigate feelings of loneliness – and in turn reduce the risk of emerging mental health problems.

Research also shows that mental health issues negatively impact upon university students’ academic outcomes. The café may offer an opportunity for earlier intervention and be a pathway for students to access mental health support in a more timely way. But equally it’s a fun and relaxed environment where everyone is welcome – students can grab free tea and biscuits, a bit of chat with fellow students if they want it, and enjoy a chance to just ‘be’.

One student said of the café: 

“I think it’s actually quite nice and I’m glad the University has created it. It feels like a relief to have somewhere like that, rather than having to wait for counselling or other waiting lists to talk to people.”

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