ARU Students Working with the Deceased during COVID-19

By Pat Lok – Death is a natural process and everyone will experience it one day. However not everyone has experience working for the deceased and/or family members of the…

By Pat Lok

Disclaimer: this article talks about death and discusses how the deceased are taken care of after sadly not surviving COVID-19. If this is something that you may find triggering, please click away.

This article was approved by The Student’s Union because the work undergone by these three ARU Medical Students is incredible and their stories deserve to be told. Support services, both internal as well as external to our university, can be found at the end of the article.

Death is a natural process and everyone will experience it one day. However not everyone has experience working for the deceased and/or family members of the deceased. A group of ARU medical students have worked closely with the deceased and the dying during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that they have a dignified death. 

A volunteer at a hospital mortuary, an employee at a gravestone memorial service and a carer at a care home share their experience in working with the deceased and the families of the deceased.

Volunteering at the mortuary

An ARU medical student, who would like to stay anonymous, volunteered at a mortuary at a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our medical school put out a call for volunteers to work in a mortuary as the short-staffed mortuary was overwhelmed with work. My role entailed checking the details of the deceased when they arrived into the mortuary and when being collected by funeral homes, sanitising the bodies and storing them appropriately.

It was very busy during the height of the pandemic as there were a lot of patients coming into the mortuary from the hospital and the community. I enjoyed being a useful pair of hands when there were very limited staff in the mortuary during a very busy time. 

From working in the mortuary, I learned the importance of checking at least 3 points of identification of the deceased and strategies to ensure that the job did not get too difficult emotionally. 

It was interesting to see the work done by the mortuary technicians and the things doctors in the hospital could do to make their job easier (for example, making sure that there are 2 hospital name bands on a patient as often these were missing as well as not wrapping several strips of tape around the deceased patients legs or head as this is unnecessary and disrespectful). I will put these things into practice whilst I am training to be a doctor. 

Having work experience in a mortuary is quite rare for a medical student and it has been a really valuable experience volunteering there. I have learned a lot.”

Working at a company that provides a gravestone memorial service

Amir is a medical student who was working at a company that provides a gravestone memorial service, predominantly for BAME groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I help a business that takes orders from cemeteries to design and produce gravestones, predominantly for the BAME community. We would take their information such as name, date of death, islamic day of death according to the lunar calendar, and age of death. We would then also take private requests such as if they want special symbols or the stone to be made in a particular colour or shape.

COVID has completely altered our workload; normally in a year we get roughly 1000 orders from this cemetery, but between the end of Feb to April we received 560 orders, half of the annual order in just a few months. We had to work efficiently so the work was split between my dad and I – I would deal with the administrative side of things and my dad would liaise with the cemetery stone supplier.

You take your health for granted until something happens to you. One case particularly stuck in my mind; we had a client who lost 3 family members in the past year, two during COVID times, and it’s sad to know that something unfortunate happened to the same person 3 times in such a short space of time. It really puts life into perspective. 

I have never attended a Muslim funeral though I do visit cemeteries with my dad quite often. I did so even as a child, just checking out the work that we put into making the cemetery stones and to be reassured that the person could rest in peace.

I think that this experience will help me as a medical student and later on as a doctor. I am now used to talking with people who are grieving and this experience also emphasised the importance of being empathetic when there are situations in which you can’t overly help at all.  

I would personally say that the government should take responsibility in the way that they dealt with the pandemic. A lot of these people weren’t particularly old – there were a significant number of middle-aged people – and a lot of the deaths could have been prevented. Lockdown happened during the beginning of March but it should have been started sooner.”

Working at a care home

Pat, a medical student and the author of this article, who worked at a care home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner into the delivery of our medical education as our medical placements are suspended and the end of year exams are becoming online exams. As a medical student I felt quite helpless in the sense that I wasn’t qualified to help people during this time, and moving back home meant that I couldn’t help out at the hospitals where I had placements.

In the end I found a job where I work as a bank carer at a care home near my house.

It’s quite scary to see the virus taking its effects in real time; every sick elderly resident follows a similar pattern: they first stop eating, they have repeated bouts of diarrhoea and episodes of confusion which is followed by a deteriorating condition and, eventually, death. Shortly after the local outbreak, all carers had to don PPE when carrying out personal care and we had to keep maintaining social distancing whenever we could. However, it’s impossible to do that as a carer. Most residents at the care home have a certain degree of immobility which require carers to assist them to carry out activity of daily living (i.e. washing and eating). The fact that we are wearing PPE when we carry out personal care is a scary experience for the elderly, especially for people living with dementia.

Weekly GP visits to the care home are replaced by a FaceTime call, where the nurse would hold the phone showing different pressure sores, rashes and other medical complaints of residents that need attending.

Reflecting on this experience, I have deep admiration for carers across the country and I believe that they deserve better pay and working conditions. In addition, isolating elderly residents in their rooms to limit the probability of virus transmission, in my opinion, may not be the best method of intervention as prolonged loneliness is also detrimental to one’s health. The pandemic has highlighted the devastating consequences of a chronically neglected social care system; rapid changes need to be made in order to prevent history from repeating itself.

Death should not be a taboo to talk about; if you’re interested in exploring the topics around death, there are groups across the country called Death Cafe where people in the community come together to have tea and hold discussions about death.”

If you have lost someone close to you during the pandemic, NHS Support Services are available to offer some assistance. This link leads to a variety of information regarding what to do in the circumstance of a COVID death as well as a bereavement hotline.

The Wellbeing Team is also available for ARU students if you need someone to talk to during these difficult times. At current they are offering appointments via telephone or Zoom. To arrange an appointment please get in touch with them at:

The Samaritans has a free emailing service if you would like to talk to somebody as well. You can choose to remain anonymous if you so wish. Contact information for the service can be found here.

Nightline are additionally still open, offering services via email. Further information about the support that they offer can be found here.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You matter and are deeply loved. Please all take care of yourselves.

Image: Ciéra Cree (Mill Road Cemetery)


Taking a COVID-19 Home Test

By Ciéra Cree – A little while ago I was randomly selected to take part in a COVID-19 testing research study being conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, an…

By Ciéra Cree

A little while ago I was randomly selected to take part in a COVID-19 testing research study being conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). I was sent a letter detailing this which I woke up to receive one morning, under the assumption that it was about something else. When I opened it and read about the chance to take part in this voluntary pilot research I decided to sign up; having the chance to be COVID tested was not something that I was going to pass down, especially before university is due to start up again.

I thought that I would share a bit about the process with you, not because it’s overly difficult, but more to show people what a test entails in case they are unaware and to hopefully reassure people that it isn’t complicated to carry out if they are offered the opportunity to do this as well.

You are firstly sent a double-sided letter providing you with details of the study. The front of the page addresses you, informing you that you have been selected and it tells you how to register (if you were to so wish) through the use of a unique eight-digit code. To sign up for the study you can either input this code into the registration website or you can contact their free-phone number. The other side of the page contains a broken down list of details about various other aspects of the test including who is carrying out the study, how your data was gathered in order for this initial contact to have been made, what doing the test will involve and whether you will receive the results of your test.

If you agree to do it, you will then receive confirmation emails and/or a confirmation text, as well as a home test kit between a period of time which you will be notified about. The test kit that I received is one which will only let me know if I have the virus currently, not if I have ever had it previously. The tests which detail both of these information’s are not yet widely available but there is hope for this in the future.

The test kit itself contains six elements: a self-assembly box, an instructions booklet, a biohazard bag with a security seal, a security seal for the main box, a sealed pack containing a swab and a plastic vial, and a sheet of labels (two serial number labels to be affixed to the biohazard bag and the vial). There is also another letter inside of the box which thanks you for your participation and shares with you further information about the test.

Before taking the test participants need to go online and book a special courier. They will arrive on the day that you choose, placing a box at your doorstep for you to put your completed test in (which is all packed away inside of the provided self-assembly box). This will then be brought to a laboratory for testing and you can expect a result to come back within a week. Participants are asked, if possible, to complete the test within a week of receiving the kit in the mail.

The test itself asks for a simple swab of the nose and throat. The swab is a long stick with a marked breaking point on it which you snap after administering the test. You then place the shortened swab inside of the vial which is then securely stored inside of the biohazard bag. It is recommended to you to do this test on the morning that your courier is due to arrive in order to have the test as fresh as possible but if this really isn’t an option you can do it the night before. Couriers can arrive any time between 8am-6pm and although they may contact you with a more specific time slot that unfortunately isn’t always the case.

Regardless of when the test is taken, you are asked to place it in a refrigerator afterwards as the bacteria needs to be kept cool at all times. I recommend packaging your sample away inside of the self-assembly box first and then putting this inside of a sandwich bag before sitting it in the refrigerator for hygiene purposes.

Once your test has been completed there is an online survey available for taking which asks questions about your health and about your experience with the test. The information booklet deems this survey as ‘very important’ so that the researchers involved in the study ‘can assess the symptoms associated with positive tests.’

And that’s what the COVID-19 home test entails! There is, of course, some points of general assistance detailed within the information booklet provided such as not to touch the soft end of the swab with your hands or anything, and there is also a video available online which walks participants through how to take the test but aside from this, I have told you the main points.

I received this test by sheer chance but if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID and would like to request one for yourself you can do so by visiting this page of the NHS website.

Please take care everyone, and stay safe!

On Friday 28th August 2020, Ciéra received an email to say that she had tested negative.

Images: Ciéra Cree and Prasesh Shiwakoti on Unsplash

Medical Ethics: An Introduction

By Emma Smith – It is an unfortunate fact that ethical dilemmas with no clear-cut answers are faced by each and every doctor, health and social care professional throughout…

By Emma Smith

It is an unfortunate fact that ethical dilemmas with no clear-cut answers are faced by each and every doctor, health and social care professional throughout their careers. Difficult decisions are made daily, and there can be major consequences for them. 

Situational ethics, unlike many ethical theories, considers context as well as the individual’s personal ideals and judgement to determine what the “right decision” is in a given situation. Medical law, to an extent, relies on this; the law states clear rights and wrongs, but it is impossible for guidelines to cover every situation. A good understanding of different ethical theories, their roots, and how they apply to real life situations can be beneficial when these grey areas are encountered and the outcome becomes reliant upon an individual’s moral principles. Principlism, consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics are important theories to consider; they can be exemplified using real cases and medical scenarios.

Therefore, it is these select theories that I will be introducing to you today.

Ethical theories


Scenario: A patient has debilitating pain in her neck, shoulders and arms. The surgeon gains consent to perform spinal cord decompression, but does not explain the small risk of paraplegia (lower body and leg paralysis), which she develops post-surgery [Sidaway v. Board of Governors of the Bethlem Royal Hospital, 1985].

Principlism is a practical approach to dealing with real-life ethical dilemmas, by following universal and basic ethical guidelines. The four ethical pillars of medicine is a principlist concept very familiar to medical students. Autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice can be exemplified by considering the Sidaway case. 

In this case, the surgeon believed that going through with the procedure was the best option, they did not harm the patient intentionally, and they could not have known the eventual outcome. This demonstrates beneficence, doing good, and nonmaleficence, avoiding harm. However, in order to respect the patient’s autonomy, the right to make informed and voluntary choices, consent must be gained after adequately explaining the risks of the procedure. This patient was of sound mind and could weigh up the risks and benefits herself, but she was arguably denied the opportunity. The last of the four principles, justice, concerns what is morally right from a wider, societal viewpoint. Had the patient decided that the procedure was too risky and not consented to it, the time and money used for it to have been undergone may have benefitted someone else. Although it’s not the main issue in this case, this demonstrates the complexity of ethical problems and how many factors must be considered.

Another (often overlooked) ethical theory to consider as a side note is dynamism: the idea that situations change, so a decision made at one time may not continue to be in the patient’s best interests. This makes some judgement calls, for example, when a patient has fluctuating capacity, incredibly difficult to handle “correctly”. Is it better to do nothing than to do what might be wrong?


Scenario: Should you allow a patient to die if their organs would save several other dying patients?

Consequentialism is another class of ethical theory where the morality of an action is based upon its consequences. Utilitarianism, a type of consequentialism, values the best interests of every individual equally when weighing up an overall outcome, whereas one’s self-interest is valued more in egoism, and less in altruism. 

The beliefs of an act utilitarian would be consistent with sacrificing one life for several others, as it directly benefits the most people. An altruist may agree with this, as the consequences faced for killing an individual person would be less important than the fact that they had saved multiple lives. 

In contrast to that, there would be no consequences for not actively influencing the situation at all by allowing the patients to die naturally, and so an egoist would disagree, alongside a rule utilitarian, that the moral principle of murder being wrong overrides all other principles.

In reality, this is complicated; the weighting of each consequence may change depending on certain circumstances. What if the patient with matching organs was in a coma with little chance of recovery, and a doctor could simply withdraw treatment? What if the patients waiting to be saved were criminals or homeless, or instead, doctors or firefighters? 

Deontology and virtue ethics

Deontological, or duty-based ethics, centre around core rules which everyone must follow. For example, Kant’s moral theory argues that the “categorical imperative” should not be violated; this is an unconditional requirement to do what would be considered right by any rational being, independent of contextual details. Another example is the prima facie duties, which includes fidelity, gratitude, justice and beneficence. Prima facie is based on intuition, literally meaning “at first glance”, so the duty most applicable to the situation is the one to take precedence.

On the other hand, a virtue ethicist aims to become a virtuous person who, by possessing desired qualities such as trustworthiness, integrity and compassion, are said to hold a complex mindset capable of dealing with complex problems intuitively. Although fundamentally different, similar outcomes could arise from applying either deontology or virtue ethics to a given situation, as they are based on similar morals such as fairness, trust and doing good.

Good medical practice

The relevance of ethics in medical practice has been recognised since the Hippocratic Oath, which states that physicians must use treatment to help the sick, never intentionally harm any patient, and keep anything that they hear in the profession secret. This ancient text is reflected in the modern day European Convention on Human Rights, for example the right to life, the rights to protection from degrading treatment and discrimination, and the right to respect for private life. Furthermore, the Good Medical Practice guidelines provided by the General Medical Council reiterate all of these points in the context of medical practice in the UK.

Medical ethics is riddled with complexity; the theory behind it has been studied over many centuries, and law and guidelines have been developed in an attempt to make sense of it all. These complexities grow when human emotion and instinct are factored into the equation, and decisions on everything from the lives of unborn foetuses to end of life care become all the more challenging.

This is the first installment by Emma in an intended series about Medical Ethics.

Image: Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

My Inspiration: Rowan Windham

By Yahan Xie – Rowan was born with a condition called Shwachman-Diamond’s Syndrome and it affects many parts of the body including the bone marrow, skeletal system…

By Yahan Xie

Rowan was born with a condition called Shwachman-Diamond’s Syndrome and it affects many parts of the body including the bone marrow, skeletal system, pancreas, and numerous others that I’m forgetting about right now. He went through so much in such a short amount of time.

He spent a third of his life in the hospital and also underwent almost 100 surgeries. Even with everything that he went through, he still loved every day of his life. “I love my life!” were the last words he said before he was intubated for the last time. Not a day went by that he didn’t say “I love my life!”, and he truly meant it. He was my rock on many of my darkest days. I still remember how whenever I hit a new low, I thought, “If Rowan will be ok, then I’ll be ok.” I always wore my “Rally for Rowan” shirts on hard days as a reminder to keep going even when life’s hard. I still do that sometimes. I wore it once underneath another shirt when I ran a tough mudder at camp one summer since I didn’t want to get it dirty, but I still wanted to bring Rowan along to keep me going since I didn’t want to do it. It turned out to be an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I did it. 

There are so many things that I love about Rowan. I remember being immediately drawn to his story after reading about the amazing bond he had with Jalene, one of his young friends that he met while in the hospital. Throughout the 20 months that I’ve known his story, I’ve learned that we also have several things in common. We both shared a deep passion for our faith and we both loved art, cooking, and theatre. I was thrilled to find out that we had been in some of the same shows before, along with the fact that he’s been in some shows that I’ve always dreamed of being cast in, such as Shrek Jr. I also found out later that he always wanted to learn the violin, an instrument I’ve played for 6 years. Ever since I came to know Rowan’s story, I always dreamed about making it down to Texas someday to meet him in person to talk about all of the stuff that we had in common, to teach him violin, and to thank him for all that God has done through him. It still hurts knowing that that chance will never come. I still have goals of making it down to Texas one day, I just have a different itinerary this time around.

Rowan’s amazing faith deeply inspired me. I remember when he was just about to leave for Seattle around this time last year. He and his mom were talking about what was going to happen in the coming months. He said, “I’m 100% sure that I want to get the transplant. Even if there was only a 50/50 chance it would work, there’s a 100% chance it won’t work…if I don’t take the chance. And with God, I feel like it’s a 100% chance I will make it through this. I’d rather take the chance of it working, and the risk of it not working…even if there’s a chance of death…because I trust my life with God.” He also said, “I’ll be ok either way” to refer to how he knew he’d be ok even if he did go to Heaven because of how amazing a place it is. Copying that dialogue over now still makes me lose my breath at how amazing his words are. He truly was wise beyond his years. 

Another thing that I loved about Rowan was his selflessness. He never only focused on himself. Someone else who also loved him recently posted to Facebook about a dream that she had. In the dream, Rowan kept having to move hospital rooms to make room for other patients. But he didn’t mind. He was more concerned about the person who needed the room than he was with himself. The dream has been hard for me to forget. There is no doubt that that’s something he would have actually done if he ever found himself in that situation. When he was younger, an organization called Kidd’s Kids had arranged a trip to Disney World for him and his family. Like any kid, Rowan really enjoyed the trip. But unlike most kids, the question he had asked his mom when the trip ended wasn’t, “When can we go again?”. Instead, he was more concerned about the question, “What can I do so more kids can go next year?”.

Plans for a lemonade stand came together relatively quickly. Rowan’s fundraiser soon became an annual thing which quickly expanded. Overall, he raised nearly $15,000 for Kidd’s Kids. He also greatly cared for his friends and their families. He was very close with two of his friend’s mommas, Jalene and Adrian moms, and I’m sure that there were many others as well. Around this time last year, he was working on a memorial garden to honor Jalene. I still remember following the progress on it through his mom’s blog. I could tell that he had put a lot of time, effort, and love into the project. It came out to be really amazing. 

I remember when school first started, I wanted to send Rowan something as he was going through his first transplant, so I asked his mom what his favorite colors were and I made him a kusudama. His mom sent me a picture after it arrived, and it also made a few appearances in pictures that have been shared to his mom’s blog which is sweet. Because I was shipping a whole pack of play-doh along with the kusudama, it turned out to be a relatively heavy package, which meant it cost more than I expected to ship. I remember walking out of the post office at my school realizing that I wasn’t so concerned about the shipping price like I usually am when stuff costs more than I expected. I then realized that it didn’t remotely matter to me at that moment. I just wanted Rowan to feel loved and like he could still be a kid despite everything that he was going through.

Unfortunately, because of what Rowan means to me, that has made having to let him go very difficult. I know what grief is like. It has crept into my life on many occasions after I’ve had to outlive so many of my biggest inspirations. Yet having to live with a Rowan-sized hole in my heart is hands-down the hardest thing that I’ve had to ever walk through. The pain has lessened with time, but it hasn’t disappeared completely. 

So to wrap up, I guess, I’m sure you can tell what an amazing boy Rowan is and always will be. And I hope that you’ll be able to understand why he means so much to me. 

You can visit Rowan’s mom’s blog here.

You can also visit Yahan’s tribute Instagram account here.

Images: Photos of Rowan have been provided by his family. Main image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Life During COVID Archive

By Ciéra Cree – People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19…

By Ciéra Cree

People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19.

The digital archive, which shall be known as ‘Life During Covid’, is being compiled by Dr Ceri Wilson, alongside Dr Pauline Lane, Rebecca Chandler and Dr Julie Teatheredge. This project has been funded by the Anglia Ruskin University Research and Innovation Support Fund and is operating as an extension of StoryLab’s initiative ‘The Frontline’, where stories of frontline workers during the pandemic have additionally been collected. Both of these archives will result in the production of insightful historical compilations that can be looked back on in the years to come.

“We are living in unprecedented times and everyone is trying to overcome their own challenges during this global pandemic. It is a time of reduced social contact, of isolation and concern, but there will also be positive stories that have come out of lockdown too.”

ARU Researchers

The appeal is specifically seeking to hear stories from certain groups of people to remain in line with work paralleling the efforts of ARU’s Positive Ageing Research Institute (PARI) and academics from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Thus, the stories being sought after are namely concerning those who are shielding and over the age of 65, those who are 18+ and have been identified as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, parents of children identified as vulnerable, and unpaid family carers of people who are living with dementia. 

If you know anyone who falls into these categories that wishes to become involved they can upload their stories, photos, artwork or videos to The tales uploaded there will then be published online for public viewing, and will potentially become a part of the formation of a longer audio-visual documentary reflecting on the COVID-19 period. Although the uploads shall be public and also go on to inform future research publications and presentations, none of the participants will be identified by name in any reporting of the findings.

‘We hope [that] this initiative will give vulnerable communities a voice, empowering them to share their own unique perspectives during the outbreak.’

For more information about contributing to the ‘Life During Covid’ archive, or if you would prefer to submit your story via email, please get in touch with Dr Ceri Wilson at

Keep up with the ‘Life During Covid’ Twitter page here.

*Deadline for submissions is July 31st, 2020*

Image: De an Sun on Unsplash

I Hate Quarantine: A Sanity Memoir

By Chelsea Furr – Before I start – here’s a little about me. I am firmly set somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. It depends on the crowd and…

By Chelsea Furr

Before I start – here’s a little about me. I am firmly set somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert. It depends on the crowd and the person that you ask. When I am out with my friends, I am a loud chatterbox, leading the buddy system of hysterical familiars on a pub-crawl because I know that, in the end, I can crawl back into my bed to recuperate.

I have enjoyed being in the office and talking to people in the kitchen, but there are some days where I have things to do and prefer to have my headphones firmly on.

But at this point, I think we can all agree that the wish not to travel into the office every morning has become relishing each shopping trip like a breath of fresh air in the blur of quarantine. 

Here is a little more about me. I come in two states: one clean and tidy until I’m sick or stressed for an exam, and the other is piles of clothes and binge-watching TV until I get the panicked urge to clean and procrastinate. I hate quarantine. I hate that I can’t go to see the people that I love. I hate that the running joke is that I must enjoy this solitude. But I know that I am not doing it for myself. I am doing it for everyone else. For everyone’s immune-weak child and grandparent.

So, here is how I am staying sane.

Blast uplifting, soul-pumping music and have a dance session – I call it ‘exercise’ – and if you are doing something like the laundry, treat it like a bonus. Who’s watching? I found that by the end of my dance sessions, I’ve also managed to correct my bad posture brought on from endless hours of social media and series-binging too. So, it’s a ‘double bonus’!

Get sunlight. I know it’s hard indoors, but like a house plant (or wallflower) you need some Vitamin D. Work, read, sit, and video chat by a window. Not only will it put less of a spooky look in your camera lens, but, maybe, you’ll get a tan. This also means getting out of bed on weekends before lunch. I set multiple alarms to make sure that I get up in good time, as begrudged as I am, and it keeps me in some sort of ‘rhythm’.

We are social creatures too. Now, I am not too bad on this front, as it only takes me two weeks on average to respond to a message. But I don’t leave conversations hanging partway through. My advice is to message anyone you can to see how they are doing. Call your Mum; it will kill some hours. Hell, message your ex and clear bad blood. Email a long-forgotten friend. What are they going to do? Turn up on your doorstep? We are social animals and even if your level of socialising is the coffee barrister in the morning or that no-name in the kitchen, message them, because it might brighten up their day too.

Exercise. Good god, yes! I have been exercising in commercial breaks because, while I knew there were too many, it was starting to kill me. I have sucked dry binge-streaming of all enjoyment. Plus, getting the blood pumping after contouring your spine at your ‘home office’, or strolling with your neck kinked downwards, does wonders for your mood. Find a free workout video on the internet or just resort to advice point one and rock out on the couch.

Do anything and everything that you said you would do in your spare time. I tick-off small goals like calling my family or organising video-lunch catch-ups with friends. Take an online class. Learn a new skill. Do more than these four walls allow. I am not saying that there aren’t days that I don’t stay in bed and eat between napping. But on better days, I am chipping away at the stack of books I bought and never read. I have learned to knit and bake banana bread. I have even started developing a green thumb. Though, I could be killing these hearty succulents… I am not quite sure. I also write grocery lists and I write article pieces like this. I hope that you are doing well at this time; take each day as it comes. The current situation is out of our control. But looking after your own head and your own body is within your power. There is no perfect way to manage this time, but doing small things like checking in with your elderly neighbours and wearing a mask in public can help others as the NHS continue the fight. Good luck in staying sane and feel free to comment below with any cool ideas to pass the time. We will get through this.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Zoom: A Lens Into People’s Lives

By Pat Lok – The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent global lockdown, has forced us to shift our usual social interactions into a different realm…

By Pat Lok

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent global lockdown, has forced us to shift our usual social interactions into a different realm; over the past few months, online communication has become the new normal. From social media to e-mail, there are a number of different platforms to choose from, though one such platform that has seen its user base balloon in recent months is Zoom.

Zoom appears to have become a synonym to the word ‘meeting’ during this lockdown. Zoom is a free online meeting tool – now ubiquitous – that facilitates the public health strategy of social distancing while also allowing people to work from home. It is a remote meeting application that enables people to collaborate and share screens from across the world, and it has become one of the most popular supplements to in-person social interaction since nearly 20% of the world’s population is now on lockdown.

Zoom’s Market Price – November 2019 to April 2020

Zoom has been utilized to facilitate different facets of social interaction – both formal and informal. Personally, I’ve used Zoom for a meeting with research colleagues from different countries, took part in a jury trial as a research project participant, and attended a virtual pub quiz.

It’s weird how this shift in social interaction has somehow allowed me to know my peers and lecturers a bit better. Zoom lectures now have occasional background noise of family chatter and occasional interruptions from pets and children. One of my friend’s lecturers embraced the advantage of lecturing from home and gave a tutorial while nursing his child on his lap.

Zoom Etiquette

Now that my usual commute has shrunk to a trip from my bed to my desk, my work attire has also been restyled into a formal top and pyjama bottom combination. Though this did lead to an embarrassing episode where I wanted to get up and fetch a book and I accidentally flashed my Simpsons pyjama bottoms to the group call. But after attending a few more Zoom meetings since then, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who has embarrassed myself on camera like this at least once.

The inability to exercise the mute button in Zoom has become the new social faux pas. Toilet flushing, swearing and Apps notification sounds just to name a few. The New Yorker has collated a light-hearted list of tips for teachers who are using Zoom to deliver classes This can also be adopted by people who are working from home to minimise the probability of you embarrassing yourself live on Zoom. These tips include adjusting your laptop to get a better camera angle and shutting your door to prevent any unwanted screen-bombing.

Zoom’s Many Uses

Meetings are only the tip of the iceberg for this versatile application; Zoom is being used for a wide range of different things: “Zoomers” have been running the European Union, hosting virtual graduation ceremonies and events, and, tragically, even executing breakups. Although successful social distancing is perceived by some as a testament to the strength of a relationship, for others, the distance apart has proved not to be so simple.

Unnecessary outings have been discouraged in order to minimise the spread of infection. This is particularly important for potentially infectious people who, if caught going into public spaces without a valid reason, can potentially face a fine. Though we are all encouraged to stay inside, and away from large groups of people, as much as we can. As a result of this, MEP meetings in Brussels have also succumbed to Zoom; “monologues have replaced dialogues”. These meetings are for discussing plans needed to contain the virus, with the adoption of remote voting by MEPs and by getting interpreters to translate meetings into the 24 official languages of the EU in real-time. It does pose a question of whether productive and meaningful conclusions can result from these virtual meetings, however, for now, it’s the best that we can do considering the current circumstance.

While there is no sign of the lockdown being lifted anytime soon, local and international institutions are investigating the possibility of delivering their events online instead. For medical students, graduations have been brought-forward and delivered on Zoom so that they can work as interim junior doctors to assist the NHS workforce amidst the pandemic.

Although the convenience of Zoom is undeniable, it does have its drawbacks. The German government recently issued a restriction upon the use of Zoom on its citizens due to its inadequate encryption. Several other countries, as well as numerous corporations, have out-right banned the use of Zoom too because of its seemingly inadequate security.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the convenience of online meetings with Zoom, I’ve also missed the human touch of face-to-face and in-person social interaction – unbuffered, unfiltered and present. Hopefully, we can return to that life before too long.

Images: Pat Lok & Javier Molina on Unsplash

Taking Student Mental Health Seriously

By Izzy Woodcock – With more students being diagnosed with mental health problems than ever before, it’s no surprise that the ongoing mental health crisis…

Taking Student Mental Health Seriously: Why the Students’ Union Needs a Mental Health Representative

By Izzy Woodcock

With more students being diagnosed with mental health problems than ever before, it’s no surprise that the ongoing mental health crisis has had a sizable impact on student life. About a third of students that drop out of university do so because of mental health, and according to YouGov, one in every four students suffer from mental health problems whilst they study. Between October 2016 and April 2018, 12 students attending the University of Bristol took their own lives as a result of their declining mental health. Since then, that number has risen to 13.

It’s time to stop closing our eyes, crossing our fingers, and hoping that this will all go away on its own. We have to ask ourselves how we got to this point, and we need to roll up our sleeves and start to change things.

Bristol University has since taken steps to improve their mental health support system, but why was there not an investigation into the higher education sector as a whole? Why did we not prioritise mental health as one of the top issues facing students today? We can’t do this on our own. Facing this crisis on a case-by-case basis is not enough. We need to work together; we need people who are on the case.


Students’ Unions would usually have a set of full-time officers whose job it is to support and represent their students, manage campaigns, and liaise with their respective universities. And while the job descriptions vary from one to the other, some Students’ Unions have a dedicated “Health and Wellbeing” officer among their ranks. Now, our Students’ Union has a “faculty-based” officer system. This means that they do not have an officer dedicated to students’ wellbeing, instead, each officer’s role represents a specific university faculty. And while every one of our officers can address concerns regarding a students’ mental health – they’re doing so amongst other things. What’s going to happen to their existing campaigns, such as their “break the cycle” campaign, after they leave? Are we going to have a new mental health campaign every year?

Leicester University’s Students’ Union has a dedicated Wellbeing officer; the University of York has a dedicated “Community and Wellbeing” officer, the University of Newcastle has a “Welfare and Equality” officer, and the University of Nottingham has an “Equal Opportunities and Welfare” officer. The list goes on.


How then, as a Union, would we address something that’s so far-reaching that it can affect every aspect of a student’s life? Two words: Campaign Representatives.

Sexism, racism, disabilities; there’s a campaign representative for each of them. Homophobia, biphobia, and other phobias relating to sexuality; there’s a campaign representative for each of them as well.

Discrimination against people because of their mental health is real and it affects all of us. Maybe you have social anxiety, but you have to give a presentation tomorrow; maybe you have depression, but you have essays due in next week. In my opinion, the system we have now wasn’t built with mental health in mind.

Mental health is still a taboo. We just have to “get on” with things. We’re told we’re “crazy”, “lazy”, and that “something’s wrong with us”. We’re told that if they were fine at our age, we should be too. No more.


Campaign representatives are there to help alleviate these kinds of issues. They give us a voice when we’ve lost our own, or when we don’t know what to say or how to say it. In my opinion, mental health deserves this kind of dedication.

The University does do a lot to help combat its student’s mental health issues. They spend vast amounts of money on counselling as well as other tools to help their students manage their conditions. The University’s London-based campus recently introduced a “peer mental health programme” which pays students to run evening activities and offer a listening ear to their fellow peers.

So, what’s the problem with that?

It’s the communication gap. The missing link between the Students’ Union and the University regarding student mental health. We should be working together. We should let the Wellbeing Team have a visible presence in the Students’ Union, as well as on its website. The Wellbeing Team and the Activities Team should be working together to create activities to make students feel less isolated. As it stands, the Students’ Union and the University are working on parallel lines; we need to work on one line and have one goal between them. We need one individual to do this by bringing the lines together.

I have submitted a motion that would create a position within the Students’ Union for a dedicated “Wellbeing” officer. Voting shall open on Wednesday 22nd; readers can follow this event on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its progress.

Images: Eric Ward on Unsplash, Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash & Ana Flávia on Unsplash

What Is It Like to Be a HCP Student Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic?

By Pat Lok – As the World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 as a pandemic, many organizations, whether public or private…

By Pat Lok

As the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, many organizations, whether public or private, have begun carrying out their emergency measures as-per the WHO guidelines – closing non-essential businesses, limiting social interaction, and encouraging frequent, thorough hand-washing to minimize the risk of infection.

However, a certain sub-section of the student populous, the ‘healthcare professional’ students (HCP), are stuck in the grey area. The university trains a large cohort of healthcare professionals; these include paramedics, midwives, nurses, operating department practitioners (ODPs), physician associates (PAs) as well as doctors. But as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the East of England, where most HCP students go to work on placement, it’s difficult to say whether such placements should be called off or not.

A live dashboard recording confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Source: Public Health England

Clinical placements are integral to a HCP student’s learning; it’s where we get to implement our theoretical learning and clinical skills – we get to practice in real life. Bedside manner and clerking patients are experiences that you have to accumulate over-time; it’s not a skill that you can master within the length of a degree.

Due to their crowded timetables, it may be unrealistic for the university to rearrange placements at such short notice since the placement coordinator has to consider the availability of senior clinicians to supervise students and other corresponding logistics.

What Do Some HCP Students Think?

Mae Hollebon, a first-year midwifery student from Chelmsford, talks about her experience of going on a placement amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Personally I’m not overly worried about going on placement with the increase in cases although I know some people are! I’m just washing my hands thoroughly and often – which we do anyway! The ward I’m working on has had a couple of changes- if women have any symptoms they have to be checked over by a doctor before being readmitted to the ward! Otherwise, we haven’t been affected much on the postnatal ward. Things are changing very quickly; a lot of staff are off as they consider themselves as high risk. Mothers are not allowed visitors anymore and their partners can only stay limited hours.”

I also spoke with a second-year paramedic student who will go on placement in both London and Essex.

“We’re younger than the population who tends to be affected by COVID-19 which is majority [of] elderly people. However, the nature of our placement is that we get rotated around when we go on placements. For example, I will be spending a period of time in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), followed by A&E, followed by the maternity ward. I’m just thinking that if I were to be infected, it will be sometime before the symptoms emerge as a study recently reported that it takes an estimated 5.1 days for patients to be symptomatic. By then I will have rotated to another ward and could be infecting other people.”

In a document sent to paramedic students through the university, The London Ambulance Service (LAS) tries to address some of our paramedic students’ worries over COVID-19.

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A screenshot of a LAS document that was sent to paramedic students via the University.

Pat Lok, author and second-year medical student, who has recently finished her GP placement, talks about her experience of going on clinical placement in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.

“It could be quite scary to see the number of COVID-19 cases going up every day but we’re taking the corresponding preventative measures, such as washing hands after seeing each patient. Some of my peers had PPE (personal protective equipment) training, a lecture on COVID-19 and the results of the ongoing screen programme that is being carried out when they were on their GP placement.

We were informed by our School of Medicine recently that our 3-week block placement will carry on as usual in 2 weeks; a few of my peers will be having their placement at hospitals with infected individuals. I’m not particularly frightened as this is what we are trained for, to look after the sick and come up with a solution to combat this contagious virus.”

How Are Our Counterparts Reacting to COVID-19?

Medical professionals regularly hold conferences and meet-ups to disseminate research and exchange ideas. It’s an established and efficient way to be kept up-to-date about the details that matter to our profession. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical conferences have been cancelled or postponed for an undetermined period of time.

Some universities are cancelling their OSCE examinations (objective structured clinical examination) for their final year medical students. OSCE is an important performance indicator of healthcare professional student as it assesses your communication skills, clinical reasoning, as well as your clinical knowledge.

What Happens Now?

COVID-19 is not an incurable disease. The WHO reported that people with mild illness will recover in about 2 weeks, while those with more severe presentations may take 3-6 weeks. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is a bit less than 1%, as estimated by Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England. We can adopt protective measures, recommended by the WHO to protect ourselves from contracting the virus, by washing your hands frequently, maintaining social distance and avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths.

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Advice from the WHO on preventive measures. Source: WHO

As for us HCP students, the COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as an invaluable learning opportunity. The outbreak of infectious viruses isn’t new to the UK; in the past, the UK has tackled outbreaks of SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and Ebola. So when HCP students go on their clinical placements, we should be supportive and understanding of NHS staff who are working on the front line amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, and try to absorb some of their talent and experience as we work.

Update: At the point of publication, all medical placements have been cancelled for all ARU medical students and second-year paramedic students until further notice.

Images: Pat Lok & Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Cambridge to Host Upcoming Global Health Conference

By Joshua Dowding – On 19th March, Cambridge Global Health Partnerships – known as the CGHP – will be hosting their second Global Health Conference since it’s debut back in 2018. This year’s event…

By Joshua Dowding

On 19th March, Cambridge Global Health Partnerships will be hosting their second Global Health Conference since it’s debut back in 2018. This year’s event has been touted to be larger and more featureful than the previous event, with more guest speakers, panels and exhibitors attending at Hughes Hall, Cambridge University.

In a program sent to us from CGHP, the conference will be split into three distinct sessions: the first focuses on ‘primary care and public health’, the second focuses on ‘global health’, while the third ‘evening session’ focuses on networking. Each session features a variety of keynote speeches from industry veterans and academics, as well as a number of panels, presentations and receptions for guests to mingle with the speakers. All-in-all, the day will go on from 8 AM to 8 PM, with registration starting from 8:30 AM and the first talk scheduled for 9 AM.

The conference aims to connect global health professionals across disciplines, counties and countries. The conference will also consider the future of global health activity across the region” – CGHP press release

According to the press release, the conference will also see the launch of a new ‘database’ that aims to ‘map the global health network across the East of England’ and ‘facilitate cross-country, interdisciplinary collaboration’ between institutions. With this new database, the CGHP and its sponsors hope to ‘enable the East of England to maximise it’s potential to make further contributions to global health causes.’ An apt mission statement given the current circumstances in Wuhan, China and beyond.

This year’s event will be themed around ‘how can Cambridge be a transformative player in global health.’ Again, an apt statement given that we have so many local pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies present in and around the city.

The Journal understands that the event will be sponsored by such entities as NHS Health Education England and the National Institute of Health Research. Several branches of the NHS will also be helping to organise the event alongside Hughes Hall, Public Health at Cambridge, Cambridge Africa and the Global Health Research Group on Neurotrauma.

We’ve been told that such high-profile speakers as Professor Dame Sally Davis, former Chief Medical Officer to the British Government and Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, will be in attendance. Alongside such other speakers as Professor Amanda Howe of the Royal College of General Practitioners and Norwich Medical School, Professor Nigel Unwin of Research in Global Public Health at the MRC Epidemiology, Doctor Atiya Kamal of the University of Derby, and many other confirmed guests – totalling fifteen so far. Plenty of names to network with!

Opportunities & Competitions

Our students have been invited to submit a poster relating to ‘global health research, education or practice’ to be shown at the conference. Should yours be selected, you will be invited to attend the conference free-of-charge and given the opportunity to present your poster to the guests and attendees. You will also be with a chance to win a £50 book voucher, all for a poster!

The deadline for submissions is the 4th of March. Submissions can be forwarded to CGHP at the following address: It could be something for your CV!

Our PhD students have also been invited to act as ‘Assistant Rapporteurs’ at the event, tasked to report on each of the items taking place at the conference and taking note of the main discussion points at the various keynotes, workshops and panels. You will then have the opportunity to publish a report summarising your findings. This could be something for your portfolio!

For more information regarding the competition and how to enter, follow this link to the flyer provided by the CGHP Press Office. Details of how to attend the event can be found on the Eventbrite listing.


Image: The Climate Reality ProjectUnsplash

Let’s Celebrate JOMO!

By Maria-Cristina Ionita – Drinks with friends, assignments due, societies to join, events to attend, work, relationships etc. As a student, I believe I have so many opportunities but such little time. Some might argue that the key to this problem is…

By Maria-Cristina Ionita

Let’s all celebrate the joy of missing out!

Drinks with friends, assignments due, societies to join, events to attend, work, relationships etc. As a student, I believe I have so many opportunities but such little time. Some might argue that the key to this problem is successful time management, but let’s not forget that we are only humans and we are not in control of everything, no matter how much we may try. Remember that change in deadline? Or that birthday party which you completely forgot about? Or that friend that needed help to get through his problems? 

FOMO (standing for the ‘fear of missing out’) is a serious issue for students today, especially with social media showing everything that we are “missing out” on. It leaves us feeling the undeniable pressure to constantly be doing something, especially in our free time. I see myself involved in so many things: running a society, attending different events, going to class, working 4 days per week and writing my assignments, all at the same time! And I still feel like I am missing out on chances to network, to improve my personal and professional skills, to change the world a little bit, and to make sure I do not waste any second as a student at ARU. I have been talking to many students and they feel the same way: we are afraid of missing out on the opportunities of our lifetimes! Many of us came to study here with the hope that we can have better resources compared to our home countries, but we are stressing so much over striving for more that we can forget to enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend in the afternoon or to read a book that we like. 

But now I ask you: Why aren’t we celebrating the JOMO (the ‘joy of missing out’)? 

The main way that I deal with FOMO is to remind myself that I am doing my best and that I need to hold myself accountable for my physical and mental health. I love being around people and engaging in different activities with other students, but I also know the importance of giving myself breaks and time alone to enjoy my own company. I praise myself every time I stop grabbing a convenient takeaway on-the-go and instead choose to enjoy a lovely chai latte in, listening to Christmas Carols and catching up with my family from back home. Choose to be happy, not just busy. At the end of the day, you should feel accomplished and blessed, not exhausted and anxious. It is the small things that can help you, but if you feel like you need help, do not be afraid to seek it.

In order to give our best, I believe that we need to be in our best condition, so do not lose yourself in the process of becoming your best self.

Image: Alejandro Ortiz on Unsplash

I Donated My Eggs – This is My Story

By Jessica-Lucy Weal – I first decided to donate my eggs when I was sat in my student house kitchen with two of my flatmates, an advertisement for the London Egg Bank had popped up on my Facebook feed and I was immediately intrigued…

By Jessica-Lucy Weal

I first decided to donate my eggs when I was sat in my student house kitchen with two of my flatmates, an advertisement for the London Egg Bank had popped up on my Facebook feed and I was immediately intrigued. Donating my eggs was something I had thought about before but never really looked into it, I had spoken about it with my sister, who had the time was also interested in donating her eggs. It was pretty straight forward to apply and they asked you simple questions. Are you between the ages of 18-30? Yes. Do you smoke? No. Are you healthy? Physically yes, emotionally… let’s move on.

I didn’t jump at the chance straight away. I clicked onto the website, scrolled through it and then respectively closed it. Was I really ready to give someone my eggs? It wasn’t as easy as somebody donating their sperm; this included a hospital visit and me being put under. It was a big deal for me and took me months and several targeted advertisements (damn you, cookies) before I decided, I’m going to donate! I called, booked an appointment and they sent me a very very long questionnaire asking me questions like my height, weight, sexual orientation, eye colour, have I ever had sex before, am I married, have I taken drugs, do I drink, how often do I drink? How many family members do I have? Basically, it was very long.

My first appointment was just sitting down and talking through my form, taking about the process and what it will entail. Here is when I discovered I would need to have internal scans, inject myself for just over 2 weeks, and have my vagina wall cut open. I felt a whole array of emotions here. I also found out that a new law had been passed meaning that if the child born from my egg wanted to find me when they turned 18, they legally could! My second appointment was where it started to get real, I had to write 3 letters: one for the parents, one for the child when they turn 16, and one for when they turn 18. The first letter was a ‘pencil portrait’, where I basically had to describe myself, what I look like, what I do, what I study, what my job is, what was my dream job, my personality. I could really write about anything as long as it was to do with them getting a feel for me. So, I basically ended up talking about Harry Styles and the strong dislike for my nose. The second letter was to the potential child when they turned 18. This one surprised me with how emotional it made me. What do you put in a letter for a child you will never know, that you have no emotional attachment to? This was probably the worst part, I felt like I was giving up and child and I had a very heavy heart afterwards. My letter basically was telling them to be kind, good people and follow their dreams and more cliché stuff.

Now, here comes the fun part.


During my second appointment I got taken upstairs to the clinic and had blood taken, I had to give a sample, and I had my first ever internal scan. She told me I was very fertile and had loads of eggs (this is good I guess). After this I had to have an hour-long session with a therapist who was checking I was doing this off my own back, not being forced into it, and that I was doing it for the “right” reasons. It seemed as though she was trying to get me to back out, which I of course didn’t.

After I got the go ahead, I just had to wait for my next period. Once that happened – the following January – I booked an appointment straight away and then a week later I had to have another internal scan which was not fun, let me tell you. It was messy, but honestly I just felt sorry for the doctor. It was the same process as before, they used a probe to counted my eggs, measured them and then gave me my injections. The injections were to be taken once a night until my next appointment which was Monday. They sat me down and talked me though everything, where to inject myself, how to inject myself, and so on. It was surprisingly easy! I did it every night for four days before my next appointment.

It was the same system each time, scan, count eggs, measure eggs, get more injections, make an appointment for the next week, go home. So, I was pretty used to it when my injections went up to two a day, one in the morning, one at night, for 6 days. The morning injections were a lot more painful than the evening ones, and I found myself dreading doing them! But I powered on and soon got used to them!


Throughout all these injections, I could feel my body changing, I was getting pains in my stomachs, headaches, bad back, I was constipated, and very emotional (I almost cried at an episode of Great British Bake Off ).

By the time my last appointment came around, I wanted it to be over. So, when I went in on Monday and they told me I would be donating on Thursday, I almost cried out of relief! I was given the trigger injection on Wednesday, which I had to take at 8 PM on the dot! My stomach was bruised, I was in pain, but it would all be over soon.

I had to be at Harley Street by 8:45 AM for my 9 AM appointment. I was told to take off all of my jewellery, no make-up, no perfume, no nail varnish and I couldn’t eat or drink anything after 9 PM the day before. I was given a gown to put on and was taken to my little section with a bed and chair for my mum to sit with me. Since I was the first appointment of the day I was seen pretty quickly, the cannula was put in my arm (it bloody hurt a lot more than I thought it would) and then by 9 AM I was taken to the room for the procedure.


I put my legs in the stirrups, and for the first time I realized “they are really getting up close!”. That feeling didn’t last long, because soon I was given an anesthetic and put under. Then about 20 minutes later (felt like 2 seconds to me), I woke up and started talking about 2Pac. Yes, you read that correctly, the first thing I thought of when I woke up was the conspiracy that 2Pac is alive and living in Cuba. I was put in a wheelchair, wheeled to my little corner of the room and put in bed. Then about 20 minutes later I was given biscuits and tea.

My nurse was amazing and I loved her. She sat me up and talked me though everything. She told me they had taken 17 eggs, and that everything went okay. Within an hour and a half of me getting there, I was leaving. A cab was called, and I was on my way home to be looked after by my family. The clinic had sent me a bunch of flowers, which was a lovely cheer up. Then a few days later I had £750 paid into my bank account.

A few weeks later I had my follow up appointment. Where yet again they done another scan, and I was told I was healing pretty well. I had no stitches or anything like that as the vagina is self-healing, so I had no uncomfortable issues there. Out of the 17 eggs they took, 14 were usable, which I was told was amazing, and because of this I helped two families.


Honestly, being told you are the reason why two families can now have children is the greatest feeling in the world and in no way did I think it would give me the feeling that it did. I felt so proud of myself and so excited for these people that I don’t even know! This feeling gave me confidence to do it again. And I have plans to go ahead and do it again.

People always ask if I worry about a child turning up on my door step 18 years later asking for help (my mum and dad are the number one people asking this), but honestly, no. And if they do, they do. I am proud to know that I helped someone. There is no better feeling than being told a family can have a child now because of you.

Live in the Moment

By Ciéra Cree – On October 23rd, I had the pleasure of meeting a lady called Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh during her week-long stay in Norwich. To be honest, that morning I seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed – both my mind and my heart felt cluttered…

By Ciéra Cree

On October 23rd, I had the pleasure of meeting a lady called Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh during her week-long stay in Norwich. To be honest, that morning I seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed – both my mind and my heart felt cluttered – so I didn’t feel very prepared for our meeting, but in hindsight I’m so glad that I got the chance to meet her, so I thought I would write something about our little trip to Norwich together.

Neither of us knew the area particularly well (despite the fact I live in this country) but we managed to make our way to the city market without getting lost or relying on the assistance of Google Maps. The market was vibrant and abundant with both people and assortments of goods, varying from foods and jumpers to toys and jewellery. While making our way around the stalls we talked about university, performing arts, and poetry – namely on the mention of a piece I wrote recently about a girl in a polka dot dress.

After our market exploration came to an end, we went to a cute little place called Macarons & More for hot chocolate stop and a chat. It was lovely to sit down and have the chance to listen to some of her writing and to share some of mine with someone who has a mutual passion for words.

There was just something nice about being able to sit down and enjoy the company of one another and the surroundings, which I feel is something people can often take for granted. Many people feel the need to be constantly occupied or entertained, and in doing so they forget to appreciate the beauty that comes from just “being” and living in the present moment. As a workaholic myself (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t procrastinate now and then) I appreciate why people can be like this, the momentum of life can move so fast that we can get caught up in it all. But there’s nothing wrong with slowing down. After our chat, we wandered between a scent store and The Body Shop before heading back to the Writers Centre.

I’ve taken quite a bit away from this experience, both in terms of writing and in general. Firstly, don’t be afraid to meet new people. If I had decided to stay at home, I would have never met this amazing woman. It’s so easy to say no to things, but to anyone reading this I encourage you to try saying ‘yes’ to more because you never know how things could turn out, or what you might miss out on otherwise. Secondly, The Body Shop is great, it must be said. It was only the other day when I was having a conversation about how I had never been there, so this trip must have been fate. Thirdly, authenticity. As a naturally shy person, I’m not the biggest fan of meeting new people, but I stayed myself and things went fine. It’s hard in a world filled with influences and pressures to feel that being yourself is enough, but trust me, transparency doesn’t go unappreciated by those you should appreciate.

Image By Josh Rocklage (Unsplash)

The Mindfulness of Hygge

By Elle Haywood – For many students, the months leading to summer are incredibly stressful and filled with deadline-related worries. From third year dissertations…

By Elle Haywood

For many students, the months leading to summer are incredibly stressful and filled with deadline-related worries. From third year dissertations, exams, and the empty void of summer, many are all feeling a little on edge. As discussed in the Let’s be Honest report from organisations at the university – it is evident that the poor mental health of university students is worryingly high, for many reasons including studies and financial issue.

This suggests that the happiness of young people is also quite low, with the World Happiness Report placing the UK in 19th position, which is not at the bottom, but still pretty low considering we are an MEDC in the Western World. So who is at the top of this? Not surprisingly, most countries from Scandinavia including Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland. The country I would like to focus on is Denmark, and their notion of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah).

Hygge is defined by Hygge House as: A Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. These notions of comfort, warmth and cosiness result in many Danes having a great work/life balance, with a fairly stable political system and liberal society. It is common for Danes to finish work when the working day ends, and you are expected to spend your evenings and weekends with friends and family, or pursuing leisure activities. So what does Hygge look like? One way of picturing it is being wrapped in a warm soft blanket, with a hot cup of tea and being surrounded by candles. It is all these notions of cosy and simple, and is best experienced with others, but can also be done alone.

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Candles are a central part of Hygge, with 31% of Danes typically having more than five burning at one time (TLBOH 2016)

As a student, it is fairly common to isolate yourself with your stress and worrying, or having you and your friends collectively stressing. Perhaps incorporating a little Hygge into our lives might be beneficial, especially during exam and deadline season (especially as our budgets are slightly constrained as students, here is an alternative to a boozy night out). You can arrange to all go over to someone’s house, pop out some cheap candles (for the Danes, it is the actual glow from the candles which is considered hygge, not the smell), each cook a small dish, put your phones away and have a chilled evening of catching up, focusing on the positives in your lives and take a break. Then the next day, take some time to plan in some hygge time around your studying, and it might just help you to relax every now and again.

This Danish concept helps them to slow their lives down, take care in the small things such as having a coffee with friends, or reading a book on a windowsill on a rainy day. It is a way to pick up your spirits, live more in the moment and find some warmth during the tough days. As a society, we have become increasingly isolated and our technology just enhances this issue. In Denmark, hygge is not even considered a chore, it is a part of their everyday lives, and even something trivial as the warmth in your stomach from a filter coffee is considered hygge. However, it cannot be bought, and it is not a lifestyle – it is a way of thinking and embodiment within one’s self. It is vital we take a step back, slow it down and just take in our surroundings a little more. We could all benefit with a little more hygge in our lives.

Hygge House Facts:

How To Find A Therapist: A Student’s View

By Robyn Robles – As your accidental resident writer of mental health related issues, I thought it was time for me to discuss a topic that is very important to me – finding a…

By Robyn Robles

As your accidental resident writer of mental health related issues, I thought it was time for me to discuss a topic that is very important to me – finding a therapist. Not just finding a therapist, mind you. Finding a good therapist. And learning what a good therapist is. And firing any therapist who is not good.

I know what you’re thinking – “What do you mean ‘finding a therapist’, Robyn? I take what I’m given and say ‘thank you very much’. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

But here’s the deal – you aren’t a beggar. You’re a tax-paying (maybe) human (probably) member of this community and you deserve good healthcare.

If you think your therapist is not doing a good job, or if they’re just not doing the sort of job that you need them to do, then you should absolutely be showing them the door. You should be choosing a therapist with all the delicate consideration with which you would choose a spouse. After all, this person will probably know more of your deep, dark, twisted thoughts than even your partner will. And they’ll be the person you endlessly complain about your partner to. That’s not a job for just anyone. It’ll take a particular person to handle whatever your particular brand of traumatised is, and help you on your way to being a fully-functioning member of society.

So shop around. Ask for recommendations from other people who you know have been to therapy, from GPs, from the internet if necessary. Ask your therapist questions (I know, scandalous) to check whether they’re a good fit for you. And if for any reason you feel that it isn’t working out, don’t give up on therapy all together and ghost that psychologist like a tinder date who was too into clean eating. Try a different one.

Things that are definitely red flags to look out for in any mental health professional include:

  • Belittling your problems. Key phrases to look out for include “everyone goes through that” and “it’s just hormones”.
  • On the flip side, demonising your symptoms or making you feel like a lost cause is also a big no-no. You don’t come to therapy for judgement, I’m sure you get enough of that elsewhere.
  • Refusing to tell you when and what they are diagnosing you with, or refusing to explain to you any diagnoses that you are given.
  • Encouraging medication without any specialised therapy to back it up or it makes you feel out of your comfort zone.
  • Pushing therapy without ever discussing medication.
  • This is going to be a surprising one – not calling you out on your problems. Listen, a significant part of anyone’s therapy appointment is going to be you making mountains out of molehills and getting you caught in a twist for no reason. Because mental health problems do that to you. You have to find someone who is willing to listen, make you hear the cold hard truth; but who will also help you find tools to combat your mental illness. Letting you moan on about your problems without any move to find viable solutions is not being a good therapist, it’s being an enabler.
  • For the other gays among us – if your therapist ever demeans your identity, then leave. I had a psychiatrist once tell me that I wasn’t bisexual, just confused. Guess who’s no longer on my Christmas card list! This also goes for any other minorities – if they’re making you uncomfortable with racism/ ableism/ transphobia/ anything else, leave.

As a disclaimer, this is far from being a comprehensive list. The information in this article is from personal experience, and does not constitute professional, medical or psychological advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions, or if any of the issues in this article affect you. And in order to avoid accusations of hypocrisy, I’m going to do a little offering of viable solutions of my own.

The UK Council for Psychotherapies offers ethical guidelines on therapy practices, so you can check for anymore specifics on how your own therapist should be acting.

GPs are an excellent first step to finding therapists or other mental health help in the UK. Anglia Ruskin, like most other British universities, also has a free mental health service, including counsellors, mental health advisors, and a drop in service for emergencies. You can find out more about that on their website. The SU at ARU also offers a well-being service, which is entirely confidential and student-focused.

And I’m going to round off this article with numbers for a few UK-based helplines – you have nothing to lose by sharing your problems with a fellow human:

Samaritans: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
MIND: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
BEAT: 0808 801 0677
Careline: 0845 122 8622 (Mon-Fri 10am-1pm, 7-10pm)

In a mental health emergency, call 999 or go to A&E if you are worried about your own safety.

Image: Adobe Stock License