A student who has struggled with his mental health is encouraging others to look out for vulnerable people on campus.
21-year-old Ciarán French from Belfast, currently studying scriptwriting at Bournemouth University, has suffered from anxiety and depression since he was 12 and last year, was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
'The diagnosis clarified a lot of things for me,' Ciarán explained. 'It all made a lot more sense. But afterwards, I went through a huge dip.
'Getting better took finding people who didn’t care who I was or how I presented myself to the world; who just cared about who I am inside, and cared for my health and my safety.
'Basically, them just checking on how I am doing – it’s really helped me to a much better place.'
It was an experience which has informed Ciarán’s project.
Fixers has helped him create a film which encourages students to look out for vulnerable people in their midst on campus.
It shows a cheerful student ambassador being extremely positive about every aspect of university – while in the background a student is clearly undergoing acute stress.
'I focused on the uni experience,' he says, 'because it’s such a drastic change in your life. You’re leaving home, leaving an education system you understand and jumping into an entirely new one.
'There are stresses from finances, and from work. You’re also surrounded by an influx of drinking and drugs.
'And while you are surrounded by people, it’s also one of the times in your life when you can feel extremely alone. It’s one of the easiest places for your mental health to go wrong.'
Ciarán is aiming his project mainly at first years, and others about to leave higher-education and go to university. He hopes it will encourage them to look out for their fellow students.
'They should ask themselves: who hasn’t been turning up for parties, or socials, or lectures? Who haven’t they heard from for a while? Should I check upon them, maybe go for a coffee together?
'Or maybe we need to just sit down in their room, where they feel comfortable, and just let them talk. Make them feel like they’re cared for and that their experience matters. That it isn’t something that is small or insignificant.'
Ciarán says he realises it isn’t easy to start talking to a stranger but he urges students to approach someone who seems to be struggling or completely alone.
'I have experienced it myself. I’ve had strangers coming up to me, checking on me and it just takes all the weight off your shoulders, even if only for 15 minutes.
'It lets you breathe and recollect yourself, and consider your situation with a more logical mind-set. Go out of your way. It could change their entire perspective. You may even save a life.'
This project was funded by the Blagrave Trust.