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This week is World Mental Health Awareness week and never has our mental health been more important. We caught up with the nominees for this years Louis Carr memorial award to chat about how they make their clubs a welcoming place for their members. They also spoke about what they are doing during the current situation to look out for their members. We had Alice Holt the President of UCL Women’s Hockey, Saiff Hamid Welfare Officer at UCL Men’s Hockey Club, Hira Sharif and Lucie Caillat Welfare Officers of UCL Women’s Football Club, and Maddison Churcher also a Welfare Officer from UCL Netball Club.

What do your club do throughout the year to promote positive mental health?

Alice “The club really encourages open communication, and everyone knows where to go if there’s an issue. Our Welfare Officer, Molly, is incredibly accessible and has provided individualised support on so many occasions. We recognise and promote how important exercise is to mental health. It’s important to run campaigns and hold events that raise awareness about mental health, but having a welcoming environment at training, matches, and fitness sessions is a great place to start!”

Saiff “As the welfare officer of the club I told our members at the beginning of the year to contact me directly if they had any issues. Every Monday after training there was an open invitation for members to attend a weekly pub quiz at a local pub. The purpose of this more chilled out social was to try and cater to the entire spectrum of our membership, most notably post grads and non drinkers”

Hira and Lucie “This year, we also started the Mums & Mums program which allowed members to more easily get to know each other and become comfortable in the club. We try to constantly remind our members that we’re always available for a chat, no matter what the situation is. To really emphasise this, we made a video on World Mental Health Day where we spoke about the importance of talking about mental health and making that a normal conversation to have.”

Maddy “This year’s committee and I thought it was really important to reach out to new members of the club at the start of the year and build a sense of trust and community. Megan (president) and I both had a clear vision of how we wanted to really promote mental health awareness, something her and I both wish we had had when we first began university. We sent out helplines, places where you can go for help, information on what specific services are for, and how to recognise the signs that someone may be struggling. We compiled a mental health and well-being survey to send out to the members so that we could better understand how people were feeling and coping, whether they felt supported at university, and how we as a club could better help them.”

What are your club doing now to look after members’ Welfare?

Alice “Since everything has been put online, we’ve made sure to keep up engagement with new initiatives. Our Welfare Officer Molly organised ‘Welfare Zooms’ on a regular basis, which have been a great tool for members to drop-in and chat when they want. We also publish a newsletter with exercise recommendations, updates on what our members are getting up to, and wellbeing tips. On social media, our 3XI Captain, Phoebe, publishes a ‘happy newsround’ with feel-good news updates, in order to counter-act the nature of the international news.”

Saiff “One of the most important things for us is keeping channels of communication with our members open so that we can support them if need be. Pub quizzes are still held over Zoom to try and bring people together. We set up a UCLMHC group on Strava to encourage people to stay active during this time, which has been really succesful.”

Hira and Lucie “Given the current situation, we’ve started a few weekly traditions within the club in order to ensure our members’ welfare. Our club hosts a weekly Arts & Crafts night on Zoom, and we’ve even started a Book Club. Another thing we did was create a Facebook page where everyone could share the hobbies and skills that they’ve picked up in isolation. This not only provided us with inspiration to pick up new hobbies but was also just a constant source of entertainment.”

Maddy “We took part in a music video to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, where members of the club could voluntarily send in a video of themselves dancing, miming and having fun. This was something quite light-hearted and a great way to keep in contact. I’ve written to the members with various helplines and services which may be of great use particularly in these hard times (such as NSPCC, National Domestic Abuse helpline, MIND, Samaritans etc.).” 

What one initiative was the most impactful thing you did for your members’ welfare?

Alice “The videos that we’ve released on mental health since the pandemic definitely reached the biggest audience. I think that it represented how Women’s Hockey have capitalised on this period of lockdown as an opportunity to increase engagement and offer more support, rather than go offline.”

Saiff “In June the annual UCL Hockey Club tour was to take place in Cullera, Valencia, but due to the Covid-19 crisis, Tour was cancelled. We still wanted to do something positive in its place. So, we decided to collectively run, jog or walk the distance from London to Cullera, which is 1000 miles, in the space of 10 days. This garnered an incredible reception from our members.”

Hira and Lucie “This year, we started the UCLWFC Mums & Mums program. This was an initiative we began in order to increase inclusivity within the club, and make new members feel more welcome. We paired two returning members with two new members and made them into a “family”, to ensure that new members felt like they had people they knew and could talk to from the very beginning.”

Maddy “Definitely the collective marathon. Members of the club were talking to new people; everyone was so willing to participate and encouraging towards others and this was so enlightening for all members to see. We see such toxic things on social media, people or friends having experienced mental health issues and/or an eating disorder and I think it was great to really focus on de-bunking the stigma surrounded with these ideas.”

Anything else you would like to add.

Alice “I think being part of a women’s sports club at university puts us in a unique position to explore how gender and welfare interact. I’m really proud of how our This Girl Can Campaign back in November opened up a discussion on this. By asking all of our members: ‘What are you most proud of?’ it became obvious that some women find it difficult or are not inclined towards speaking about their achievements. Women’s Hockey have worked really hard to create an environment which celebrates success, which I believe has had a positive impact on our members’ mental health and development.”

Saiff “In my opinion, mainly drawing from my own experiences, the best way to support people’s mental health is to try and be there for them. Not necessarily giving them advice on how to live their lives as none of us are really qualified for that level of support, but more on the lines of letting them now that you are available for them to confide in if they are feeling down.” 

Thanks to all of the clubs for getting involved! If you are a club looking for something to do to engage your members, please reach out to us and email teamucl@ucl.ac.uk

If you feel like your mental health is not in a good place right now, please reach out to UCL Student Support and Well being who are still supporting students remotely. 


With thanks to the Horse Riding Club for use of the thumbnail image.