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App hopes to aid students’ mental health

Students’ mental health is a topic causing much concern among education professionals, but as a UK research team highlighted “alarmingly high” rates of psychological ill-health among HE students, one company thinks it has the answer – and it might not be what you expect.

Fika hopes the Scandinavian trend of taking time to talk each day will help students. Photo: Fika

Fika is a Swedish expression meaning to take time each day for a break from work to talk

“We know that isolation is a key issue for international students”

Fika, founded by Nick Bennett, is an app-based “emotional fitness tool” which uses cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness and other techniques, along with a “Scandinavian trend for making the time to talk about, and listen to your emotions and those of your friends”.

Speaking on Britain’s University Mental Health Day, Bennett said the first step is admitting a problem exists on campuses.

“As these new figures reveal alarmingly high levels of anxiety, loneliness, substance misuse and thoughts of self-harm – let’s admit we have a problem in the UK and then, critically, let’s do something about it. The sad fact is we’ve allowed our cultural focus and the language that stems from it to bind us to a negative perception of mental health and focus on cure, not prevention,” he said.

The tool is aimed at all students, and Bennett told The PIE News the companies trials with the universities of Lincoln, Coventry, Exeter and Manchester (Metropolitan) showed international students face unique challenges during periods of mobility.

“For students arriving in the UK from overseas, Fika will be an invaluable confidence-builder. Through our university partners we know that isolation is a key issue for international students,” he explained.

Fika is uniquely placed to improve cross-cultural inclusion,” he continued.

The Insight Network study found 33% of students in UK HE “experienced a serious psychological issue for which they felt they needed professional help”. Although the findings are not entirely comparable, a 2018 study carried out by Campus Living Villages and The Student Room revealed 36% of international students have felt suicidal at one point in their academic career.

“Emotional Fitness, as a concept, places the ability to care for ourselves and one another back in our own hands, by drawing on a wealth of evidence-based wellbeing practices that have been accumulating in psychology for the last few decades. It’s great to work with Fika and other university partners to develop an accessible, proactive and preventative approach to mental health,” said Roger Bretherton at the University of Lincoln.

Fika is a Swedish expression meaning to take a break, with friends or colleagues, to talk and take time for companionship.

 

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