Dedicated Mental Health First Aiders

About Mental Health First Aiders

Since 2015, over 700 staff and students have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA), which is helping to reduce mental health stigma at the University and foster a safe, enabling environment where mental and physical health are valued equally.

To develop our Mental Health First Aid service and make this more accessible to the staff community, we formed the Dedicated Mental Health First Aiders, a network who have completed the MHFA course and who have volunteered to offer confidential and informal support to staff on mental health matters.

How MHFA can help

Whether it is meeting with a supporter on Zoom or going for a lunchtime walk with them on campus, the network provides a non-judgemental, confidential listening ear as well as suggestions of other relevant support services, based on the principles of Mental Health First Aid.

Anything discussed with a Mental Health First Aider will be kept confidential, unless there is a concern regarding a risk posed to an individual.

Contact a Mental Health First Aider

You can contact Mental Health First Aiders via their profiles below.

 Jennifer Eames

I’m Jen, Assistant to the Executive Dean, in the Faculty of Science and Health. I have found that throughout both my professional and my personal life that people seem to feel comfortable to approach me to talk about a range of topics; this may be for advice, an opinion or just someone to talk to who will listen, be there, without judgement, and always in confidence. I have also had the privilege of being a volunteer Samaritan. In addition to this, I have supported close friends, relatives and work colleagues who have experienced a range of mental health, illness and bereavement issues so this is also a key reason why I have volunteered for a MHFA role – i.e. to help others. If any staff member finds themselves in a position where they would like to have a confidential informal chat, do feel free to contact me by email or on Zoom. I work full-time and currently working from home.

 Illana Flora

I work as part of the Residence Life team which are part of Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Services. For me, staff wellbeing is equally as important as student wellbeing at the University, which is why I want to use my MHFA skills to support any staff who are in need of some space to talk. I’m also a keen runner and qualified leader in run fitness – never underestimate the value of exercise in looking after your mental health, so I’m always up for encouraging and joining staff who are new to running to maintain the hobby!

 Marie Morris

I currently lead the admin support for Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity. In my personal and professional life I have regularly found myself supporting people going through challenging situations, particularly long-term illnesses, and sadly also those affected by suicide. For several years I was part of a team providing mental health support to people attending a festival. During the height of the COVID pandemic I worked within an NHS trust supporting a team of Directors where I gained my Mental Health First Aid qualification. I work part time, usually three days a week on Colchester campus plus one day from home.

 Daniela Carboni

I’m an Employee Development and Wellbeing Advisor at the Students' Union. I am responsible for delivering and coordinating staff training- I am also one of the Universities MHFA Trainers. Staff Wellbeing is a big focus of mine and along with arranging staff wellbeing events, I also run drop-ins and offer time for staff to just chat or share their worries. SU staff have said this has been really beneficial, so I’m really looking forward to being able to offer the same to University colleagues. I work on campus regularly so I am available to meet for a walk, coffee or just have a quick chat on the phone or Zoom.

 Madelyn Wright

My life's mission is to be the most joyful me I can be, and to help others to do the same, so I volunteered as a MHFA in order to provide a listening ear and - if wanted - offer practical support to anyone who feels that they need a friend, they're stuck, they don't know where to turn, they feel hopeless or they just want a chat. I work remotely and am happy to meet on Zoom or arrange an in-person meetup on campus or elsewhere in Colchester.

 Karen Leeder

I have been at the University for over 8 years and currently work as a Quality and Academic Development Manager in the QUAD team within the academic section. I have always regarded staff wellbeing as incredibly important and never more so than throughout the last few years when we have all experienced particularly challenging circumstances so I’m keen to use my MHFA skills to support any staff who are in need of it. I work full-time and am currently working remotely from home so I am available to meet via Zoom so if you’d like a chat or just someone to listen please feel free to get in touch.

 LLoyd Shankley

I work in the Exam Boards Team and am also the co-chair for the Essex Access Forum. Myself and my family have had histories of mental health challenges and I see this as an opportunity to give to others what I wish I had sought during my own times of hardship. I support members of our neurodivergent community with correlating mental health challenges and people have found me to be an approachable and keen listener. I have used my MHFA to support people within and outside of the University, and although I can’t promise that I will have the solution to your problem, I will commit myself to helping you find your way. I’m usually on-campus so I’d be happy to grab a lunchtime coffee or wander along the Wivenhoe trail if you want to get away from campus for half an hour.

 Sian Spice

Hello I work in the professional services team in the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences. I’m friendly and super easy to chat with, and sometimes, that’s just what we need! Looking after your mental health can be a real challenge at times but finding opportunities to have a chat and talk things through with someone can be a great place to start. I work on campus 5 days a week, feel free to contact me any time to arrange a coffee and a chat.

 Joanna O'Connor

Hi! I graduated from Essex several years ago after studying my BA in History. I currently work within Student Development as a Work-based Learning Officer. I became a Mental Health First Aider in 2020 and volunteered for this role to help support my colleagues through these tough times. I am regularly on campus and am also happy to have a chat on zoom at lunchtime.

I'm the University's Anglican Chaplain. I'm chaplain to everyone - staff and student, whatever your faith or beliefs. I'm really used to holding confidential conversations, and gently accompanying anyone finding life tough. It's my aim to create the most inclusive, non-judgmental chaplaincy I can. I'm often on campus, so do be in touch if you'd like a chat in-person or via Zoom.

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Occupational Health team
Telephone: 01206 872399