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'The passion to make a difference energises me to keep doing this work'

PhD student and wellbeing champion Julia Pointon-Haas (MSc Health Promotion, 2014; PhD IoPPN [Student]) was a winner in the King’s Alumni Awards last year. We caught up with Julia to find out what she’s been up to since…

400 KDAA Julia Pointon-Haas

What have you been up to since winning our Future Alum Award?

I got married at King’s in the Strand Chapel. I also travelled to eight countries outside of the UK. Three of these were new to me. I started a new role as the KCLSU (King’s College London Students’ Union) Head of Advice and Wellbeing, too. I’m doing this alongside my PhD research into university student mental health and wellbeing.

Why are you so passionate about supporting student wellbeing?

For most people, being a student in higher education is transformational. It’s the first time many have a new agency to make decisions for themselves. Also, it’s also a key time in one’s mental health journey.

Why is that?

Most mental health difficulties come to light before the age of 25 when many are in university or college. This makes it a critical time.

While this time of life comes with many challenges, it can also be an important time to build community, create healthy coping mechanisms and learn about yourself. Because of its significance, I’m passionate to ensure that every student, no matter their background, can flourish at university and go on to pursue the life they want because of the growth they experienced being a student.

What’s been your proudest activity supporting student wellbeing in the past six months?

I’m proud to see my PhD research informing sector guidance on supporting student mental health and wellbeing in the new TASO (Transforming Access and Student Outcomes) Student Mental Health Evidence Hub. One of my publications informed the section on peer support.

Also, a peer support development project I started at KCLSU Wellbeing is being published as a case study in this toolkit. I started the PhD because I wanted to support the higher education sector to consider how they could incorporate peer support into their student and mental health strategies as part of whole-university approach. I’m excited to see some of my research being shared to help the sector.

Aside from this, I love seeing students passionate about supporting each other’s wellbeing in our peer support programme at KCSLU Wellbeing. The passion to make a difference gives me the energy to keep doing this work.

What's your best bit of advice to help students succeed in their studies?

Think of the top three things that are most important to you right now. What connects them? I can tell you without knowing anything about you. It’s you. You are the person who does the things that matter most. You show up for the people you care about. You do the hard work to succeed in your studies. You do the things!

So, invest in your wellbeing first so that you can do all the other things that matter. Invest time in understanding what’s good for your wellbeing and build habits to incorporate that into your life as a priority.

If you’re struggling, don’t do it alone. Tell someone and reach out for support when you’re unsure how to look after your wellbeing. There is always help if you prioritise your wellbeing first. And exploring what’s on offer at KCLSU Wellbeing is a good place to start.

If you’re a student making a difference to your world, enter the Future Alumni category in our 2024 Alumni Awards.

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