How four brave university students are spreading mental health awareness through innovative new society

Four students from the University of Leeds are on a mission to spread awareness of mental health across the campus and beyond after an incredible Freshers' Fair response to their new society.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 4:45 pm

Second-year Megan Suckling, 19, is the founder of SSAFE (Suicide Support and Awareness For Everyone).

The society has been set up to help improve "the mental wellbeing" of the community.

For Megan's family, the lockdown was extremely tough.

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Students have started a group called the Suicide Prevention Society, at Leeds University.. Pictured from the left are Edwina O'Connor, Megan Suckling and Alex Simpson-Ayter. Pic: Simon Hulme

Speaking to the YEP, she told how her brother struggled with his mental health and attempted to take his own life multiple times over the course of six months.

Megan, who is from Eastbourne but moved to Leeds five years ago, said her family saw a "lack of support" for relatives of those who were affected by mental health in this way.

Eager to make a difference, she returned to university and set out on creating a society to inform and educate her peers. Its ambition is to work with mental health charities and education platforms to spread the message.

Together with secretary Chloe Davison, 19; treasurer Alex Simpson-Hayter, 19, and 21-year-old schools liaison Edwina O'Connor, Megan hopes the society will succeed in its goals.

Founder Megan Suckling, 19 Pic: Simon Hulme

And the early signs are encouraging as more than 50 students signed up during the recent Freshers' Fair.

Megan said: "We want to create a support system for those with relatives suffering from mental health issues.

"This will start with intensive research and focus groups to identify the need for such a group, and once developed we intend to set up regular peer support sessions.

"We are looking for sponsorships for our endeavours and really hope to make a difference within the community."

The first aim of the group - which was set to meet for the first time on October 14 - is to earn "mental health first aid certifications".

Megan explained: "This will equip us to be mental health ambassadors for the University of Leeds and help us to spread mental health and suicide awareness to local schools in Leeds to try and help everyone understand the signs of someone struggling.

"We want to create a support system for those with relatives suffering from mental health issues."

For Alex Simpson-Hayter, her involvement in the society comes after she lost her dad through suicide.

She believes a lot of people of the same age as those in the group are struggling with their mental health and she is determined to help make a difference to others.

Alex, from Leeds, added: "It’s not talked about that much and there’s a negative stigma around it, so I think it’s important for discussions to be started and welcoming places for people.

"For me, it’s something where I want to help as many people suffering from issues around it."

Meanwhile, Chloe said she wanted to get rid of "any stigma" surrounding the subject of suicide.

"We have found that when someone thinks of a crisis line, they don't think their problems are big enough to contact them," she said.

"We want to get rid of any stigma surrounding this and mental health in general.

"Crises are a time of intense difficulty for yourself, and comparing yourself to others idea of a crisis doesn't allow you the healing you may need."

For more information, visit the society Instagram by searching 'luussafe'.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are there – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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