A mother of two graduating this week has praised the university therapist and wellbeing service that have helped her through family bereavements and financial problems suffered over the last four years.
Former mental health support worker Kimberley Jones, 32, relocated from her native Leeds to Carlisle in 2015 with her two young children to embark on a social work degree at the University of Cumbria.
Within months of starting her course, at the university’s Fusehill Street campus in Carlisle, Kimberley’s mother died suddenly. Around 18 months later, in October 2017, Kimberley went on to lose her father.
Following his death Kimberley experienced a delay of several months in receiving her student finance, an issue arising after it was agreed that she could extend her degree into an unexpected fourth year.
Today Kimberley thanks the university’s wellbeing team, her fellow students and course tutors for providing her with ‘stability and support’. In particular, Kimberley highlights the work of therapist Fred Worsley, whom she credits with stopping her from ‘dropping out’.
Kimberley, who graduates with a 2:1 degree, said: “My personal tutor recommended the wellbeing service initially and I started seeing Fred regularly following the death of my mother. He told me what steps to take, helped me make a plan and speak to the university about what was happening. If it wasn’t for his support I wouldn’t have known what to do, how to make those connections – I wouldn’t have a degree today if it wasn’t for him.
“When my dad died I put in another request to see Fred. He would be the person I could go to and cry and be vulnerable if I needed to.”
Fred delivered mindfulness sessions at times when Kimberley faced additional pressures, part of a bespoke package of support designed to meet her needs.
Kimberley said: “I came to Carlisle because I wanted somewhere different to the big city I was in. I wanted a university that would give me that personal experience.
“Although the last few years have been extremely challenging. Looking back there’s no way I would’ve felt comfortable being in a place where I didn’t know the team and approaching my tutor saying I needed to take time away, yet at Cumbria I could do that.
“In my third year, after the death of my dad, I would still come on to campus for lectures or do an assignment and to use the library at all hours, often bringing the children in with me while my partner was working shifts.
“The staff and my friends provided me with that stability and support I needed. I couldn’t go through with placements at the time because I didn’t want to let external service users down, which is why I was allowed to continue my course into a fourth year.”
The University of Cumbria’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Service incorporates counselling, psychotherapy and mental health support, offering a range of person-centred help and therapies.
Dave Wilson, mental health and wellbeing manager at the university, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement to see Kim graduate, having gone through so many personal challenges. I am glad that Kim made a referral to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, and that she worked with Fred to overcome the difficulties she faced during her studies.
“The Mental Health and Wellbeing Team are here to support registered students with a whole range of personal, emotional, psychological, or mental health difficulties whilst they are studying. As someone who has also been an undergraduate social work student, I wish Kim every success in her future career.”
Senior social work lecturer Matthew Smith said: “Kimberley has compassion with people and wants to assist and support the most vulnerable in society. She has a lovely manner and is outgoing. That outgoing characteristic not only cheers people up, it takes people with her and helps them change things in their lives.
“Kimberley has also overcome challenges over the four years she has been on the course. She has been a massive support to her family and friends and given so much of herself to them whilst facing those. She will make an amazing social worker.”
Kimberley’s partner Mark and children Jack, 13, and Alexa, who is 10, joined her for graduation this week.
Kimberley is among almost 1,000 University of Cumbria graduands gathering at Carlisle Cathedral for three days of graduation ceremonies.