Kayley WilsonA former Edge Hill Students’ Union President who was the first in her family to go to university has graduated with a distinction in her Masters in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health.

Kayley Wilson (26) from Chesterfield studied for her first degree at the University after deciding she wanted to be a teacher when she completed her year 10 work experience in a school.

She began her degree in Primary Education with QTS after a friend recommended Edge Hill for teacher training. “I fell in love with the campus from the day I visited for my interview. Whilst I loved the whole university experience as an undergraduate, by the end of my three years I was unsure whether teaching was for me so I decided to run in the Students’ Union elections to try and make a difference at university,” she said.

“Being elected as Vice-President and then later as President created new opportunities and changed my mindset of what I wanted to do, I enjoyed running campaigns that could make a difference to students and supporting individuals on a one to one basis which influenced my decision to apply for this Masters.

“I’ve always had an interest in sport and physical activity and the benefits it can have. My undergraduate research focussed on high quality physical education lessons in schools. So when I was introduced to this course through working with the University on campaigns for student mental health, it sounded like a great opportunity to combine two areas of interest.

“As President I’d also submitted and signed the time to change pledge in collaboration with the University and taken part in mental health first aid and suicide awareness so that I could better support students, but I’d always wanted to find out more about support available and believed this course would help me to do that.”

Working in the Students’ Union allowed Kayley to get first-hand experience of students seeking support for issues that were either as a result of them struggling with their mental health, or the issue they were dealing with was affecting their mental health.

“It made me want to find out more about the issues students were facing and what more could be done to support students,” said Kayley. “But I was also interested in the staff perspective, I wanted to understand how they supported students, and if they themselves had appropriate support.”

“My research titled ‘challenges and support for mental health in higher education: a staff and student perspective’ highlighted the interconnected nature of the university setting and found staff and student issues to be closely related.”

Kayley hopes to publish the findings from her thesis to assist universities when planning future mental health provision.

After beginning her studies at Edge Hill eight years ago, with just a two year break away from campus, the University will hold fond memories for Kayley. She said: “I think it’s such a community, for both staff and students.

“My advice for students is to try and get involved with as much as possible, join a society or sports team if you can, try new things and ask for help if you are struggling whether it’s from the university services, a tutor or even a friend.”

Kayley now intends to use her experience and studies to support individuals who may be struggling with their own mental health.

She said: “I would like to explore and support the transitional period from secondary school to university, as now I have worked with both school aged children and higher education students and have found that there does seem to be a gap in support between these ages.

“I am currently looking at new roles being introduced covering this area and younger as education mental health practitioner.”

Find out more about studying for a Masters in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health here.