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NEWS: Online mental health support service announced for the University of Essex

Students will be provided with a safe space to discuss their mental health thanks to a brand new online platform, Chat with Charlie.

Chat with Charlie is being funded by donations made to the Charlie Watkins Foundation, set up in memory of Charlie who tragically took his life in March 2017 when he was just 22. It will initially be available for students at the University of Essex, but it is hoped it will also be introduced at the University of York, where Charlie was a student, and other universities across the country.

Harry Watkins, Charlie’s twin brother, who set up the Charlie Watkins Foundation in 2017 to raise awareness for those suffering from mental health difficulties, said: “There is a growing problem in the UK, which is the lack of counselling support for those who need it.

“This is why the CWF, along with Mid and North East Essex Mind, believe in making a change. We hope Chat with Charlie will be introduced in universities across the country.

“The idea is to create an online portal for students who may be struggling with their mental health. They will be able to log into a chat room to talk with a trained volunteer who can then determine what support they would benefit from.

“This will, therefore, provide a support network for students who may currently be unaware of what their university provides. This in turn will help to destroy the stigma surrounding mental health.”

He went on to say: “Our JustGiving page has had an outstanding response and we are thrilled to see the donations being put into the Chat with Charlie service.

“After Charlie’s death, it became clear to us that there is a lack of awareness when it comes to mental health in young people, especially young men. But more importantly, there is a lack of timely support and service provision. We hope that Chat with Charlie will help young people at the University of Essex seek the help they need and are able to quickly find the support that’s right for them.”

The service will operate between 5pm and 10pm every evening and will provide students with confidential advice and support for any mental health or emotional wellbeing problems they are facing.

Mid and North East Essex Mind in partnership with the Charlie Watkins Foundation have designed the service which will be run for their Colchester base by a team of trained staff and volunteers.

Stephanie Mills, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Mid and North East Essex Mind, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the Charlie Watkins Foundation to establish the Chat with Charlie service for the University of Essex.

“It is so important that students at university feel they have someone to talk to about their wellbeing. Factors such as being away from home and exam stress can be hard, and we hope this service can help those who may be finding it tough.”

The University of Essex already offer a wide range of services for their students including a student services hub as well as an online mental health programme.

Angela Jones, Head of Student Support at the University of Essex, said: “Students at our University benefit from a wide range of support. We always seek to find new ways to improve opportunities for them to talk about their mental health and Chat with Charlie is a very welcome addition to our existing services. We are excited to be working with the Charlie Watkins Foundation.”

Read more about the Chat with Charlie service here: