Suicide of Charlie Watkins, 22, prompts launch of online support forum at University of Essex
- Credit: WATKINS FAMILY
A mental health support platform has been set up for students in north Essex in memory of a 22-year-old man who took his own life.
Chat with Charlie is an online forum launched at the University of Essex where trained volunteers are available to listen and signpost to help services.
The project has been spearheaded by the family of Charlie Watkins, who was from Higham near Colchester and died by suicide in March 2017.
It has been funded by donations made to the Charlie Watkins Foundations, which was set up by Charlie’s twin brother Harry to raise awareness of mental illness.
Harry said: “After Charlie’s death, it became clear to us that there is a lack of awareness when it comes to mental health in young people, especially young men. But more importantly, there is a lack of timely support and service provision.
“We hope that Chat with Charlie will help young people at the University of Essex seek the help they need and are able to quickly find the support that’s right for them.”
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Harry said his ambition was to set up the forum at other universities across the country, including the University of York where Charlie studied criminology.
Charlie featured in an episode of dating show Take Me Out, which aired after his death.
The service will operate daily between 5pm and 10pm and will provide students with confidential advice and support for mental health or emotional wellbeing problems.
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It has been established in partnership with Mid and North East Essex Mind.
The charity’s marketing and fundraising manager, Stephanie Mills, said: “It is so important that students at university feel they have someone to talk to about their wellbeing. Factors such as being away from home and exam stress can be hard, and we hope this service can help those who may be finding it tough.”
Angela Jones, head of student support at the University of Essex, said there were already a range of mental health services on offer at the site.
She added: “We always seek to find new ways to improve opportunities for them to talk about their mental health and Chat with Charlie is a very welcome addition to our existing services.”