Exeter Student Minds has set up a project providing peer support for those with eating difﬁculties, due to begin in term two. The support group plans to hold fortnightly or weekly sessions, run by two trained specialists in eating disorders. These sessions will be “drop-in”, so that students can come along whenever they are in need of extra support.
It seeks to act as a peer-to-peer support group within a pro-recovery atmosphere, for those struggling with
any form of eating disorder. The group encompasses all students in their individual experiences, whether someone is starting to struggle or is on the road to recovery.
“I knew that something had to be done, even if only a small step”
Leah Fuller, project organiser and former student, told Exeposé: “Having witnessed students drop out of university due to the lack of services, I knew that something had to be done, even if only a small step. It was this, and seeing so many struggle, that fuelled me to run for Sabbatical Ofﬁcer last year, and despite not winning, I still want to keep my promise to set up this group in the hope that it will beneﬁt someone.”
“I’m so glad to hear something like this has been set up to help students,” one ﬁnal year student and former sufferer told Exeposé.
“In my second year I struggled massively with the lack of support in Exeter for those with eating disorders. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one suffering, which makes you feel like you’ve somehow failed as a student, because everyone else is coping while you’re not – and of course that’s totally untrue. Having reassurance that I wasn’t alone and this was actually something I could work through and beat would have made the world of difference.”
Mark Sawyer, Head of Wellbeing Services, said: “We wholeheartedly support this initiative and are very pleased that it is due to launch.
“In the UK, and especially in our local area, there are relatively few community-based NHS support services for people with eating disorders other than inpatient programmes. This provides an alternative, where people can work with and get support from their peers, build their conﬁdence and be part of a community.
“It is important to remember though, that this would be part of a package of treatment for anyone with an eating disorder and would not replace any other medical or psychological therapy services.” The support group will be able to provide direction for those with more severe difﬁculties.
The project has partnered with Student Minds to ensure that students in attendance will receive valuable support; Student Minds will provide full training and supervision to volunteer facilitators, who will run the group sessions. It will be ﬁnanced by the University of Exeter Annual Fund, and the Guild Advise Unit and Wellbeing Centre have both pledged to help this group run successfully.
The peer support group is currently seeking volunteer facilitators. More information can be found on the ‘Exeter Student Minds – Eating Difﬁculties Support Project’ Facebook page, and students can apply to be a volunteer at www.studentminds.org.uk/peer-support-application-and-training.html.