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Students bid to tackle social isolation

A café run by students at Plymouth University has been launched in a bid to tackle social isolation on university campus.

Named S.P.A.C.E (Socialise, Play, Aspire, Connect and Enjoy) the café was opened in December 2018, and aims to provide a space for students who might not be thriving in the ‘typical’ uni environment.

The decision to launch the new project was based on academic research at the university into loneliness. The café is only one of three of its kind in the country, and the first to open in the South West.

Research into the café’s effectiveness will also be carried out over time, and the university hopes that the project will provide other universities with a useful steer on tackling mental health on campus.

Figures show that nearly one third (29%) of students experience mental distress and since 2007 there also has been a fivefold increase in the proportion of students with mental health condition.

Other university schemes have been announced in recent years to tackle mental health on campus, including at the University of Bristol which has seen 11 student suicides in the past two years alone.

Anne Bentley, Plymouth University’s student wellbeing services manager, 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.

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.

Image supplied by Plymouth University