There are many support services available to students at Surrey, the Centre for Wellbeing, Nightline and Togetherall to name just a few, but did you know that you can also seek wellbeing support within your club or society?
Wellbeing and Inclusion Champions
“a space for someone to come and talk and a person to confide in”BLDC Wellbeing Champion
Wellbeing and Inclusion Champions form part of the committee for most clubs and societies. Their role is to support the wellbeing of both existing and potential new members, and to ensure that inclusivity is a core value of the club or society. They can then offer one-to-one support, signpost you to the most relevant mental health service, or feed-back your concerns to the rest of committee so that they can make changes to support you. They offer a safe, non-judgemental space for you to share your problems and to get them resolved.
So, what does that mean in practice?
The role of a Wellbeing Champion can be very wide-reaching with regards to inclusivity, but the main goal is ensuring that all members feel welcome and comfortable in the club. This may be as simple as supporting a new cohort of beginners in integrating with the rest of the club, but can also stretch to supporting particular groups who may be or feel discriminated against, such as LGBTQ+ or racial minorities. They are trained to support minority groups and promote their inclusion in the club whilst responding to any issues quickly and effectively.
As a member of Surrey BLDC (University of Surrey Ballroom and Latin Club), our sport is based on years of tradition and, admittedly, can be old-fashioned. For us, inclusivity may take the form supporting someone who, for any reason, is not comfortable with the flamboyant dress code at competitions. Rather than the individual sitting out entirely or feeling uncomfortable, the Wellbeing and Inclusion Champions are able to pass on this feedback and find the best solution. In this example, the person may be able to wear a combination of the traditionally-male and traditionally-female dress code.
“A safe, non-judgemental space”BLDC Wellbeing Champion
Wellbeing Champions are also trained to deal with, you guessed it, wellbeing issues. This could be for issues affecting the whole club or university, or just an individual. As well as club-related issues, you can also speak with them about university life in general, family, friends, or anything else affecting you personally. They are trained in both active listening and signposting, so that you can both talk openly and confidentially with them and be listened to without judgement, but also so that they can make you aware of the best places to go for further support. In addition, Wellbeing Champions are trained to deal with serious disclosures, meaning you can go to them in confidence about more serious issues such as pregnancy or abuse.
My experience of joining a society
I joined Surrey BLDC in my final year of my undergraduate course as a way of meeting new friends, going from a brand-new member just over a year ago to one of the Team Captains this year, and it has had a massively positive effect on my wellbeing. As a student, most of us will experience periods of anxiety and stress at some point and BLDC has acted as both an escape and an invaluable support system for me in these times. I was welcomed with open arms into the club, even as a slightly older student, and have had the pleasure of paying this forward when welcoming new members this year.
Despite being on a huge campus, university life can still feel isolating at times. I have found it hugely useful and important to step away not just from my course and its workload, but also from people on my course. It can be very refreshing spending time with people with completely different backgrounds and interests, with different deadlines and challenges. I have received endless support from members, committee members and Wellbeing Champions alike, and joining BLDC has been a truly invaluable part of my university life. I must also mention that I have really seen first-hand how simply moving and exercising can positively affect wellbeing.
The nature of Ballroom dancing, being physically close all the time, has meant that as a group there is a real family dynamic and atmosphere at BLDC, but I have no doubt that you would see the same support and friendships in any club and society. If you ask me, there’s no better feeling than being united as a group, all studying completely different courses and leading different lives, by doing something you all love and watching all your worries melt away, whatever that may be. I would recommend joining a club/society to anyone joining Surrey, and would encourage any current students to consider the wellbeing support within clubs and societies as an option for support, should you ever need it.