Bus using chess to tackle loneliness and social isolation visits University of Winchester

27 Mar 2019
5asideCHESS bus beside two people playing chess at University of Winchester

The University of Winchester used the power of chess to raise student awareness of mental health issues when the 5asideCHESS Battling Suicide Bus visited this week.  

Lesley Black, Acting Director of Student Services, said: “We are always looking for new ways to get students to engage with the topic of mental health. When we found out about the 5asideCHESS Battling Suicide Bus, we were keen to get involved. The bus was fantastic at generating conversation and it was great to see so many of our students taking a few minutes out of their day to play a game of chess and connect with their peers. We hope that, by hosting this event, we have highlighted the message to students that no one has to struggle alone and that the University is there to support them.”

During the one-day event, the 5asideCHESS team and Student Listeners from the University engaged students with activities designed to tackle loneliness and social isolation. Visitors were encouraged to play a simplified game of chess using custom-made boards and to chat to their opponent. Alternatively, the students were encouraged to relax with colouring or to drop by for a cup of tea and a conversation. All were welcome to write positive and in memoriam messages to inspire others and express how suicide has impacted their life.

The event also signposted important support services provided by the University, including the Student Listeners scheme, counselling services, mental health workshops and drop-in sessions with the Student Services team, and free sporting activities through the GetActive scheme.

The University of Winchester now aims to set up a regular 5-a-side chess peer support group using chess boards and materials donated by the 5asideCHESS team.

Ryan Child, Playmaker at 5asideCHESS, said: "5asideCHESS is a simple project, really. We offer people the chance to talk, and chess is what we use to break the ice. The Battling Suicide Bus presents a really powerful mental health message when we visit campuses. It makes the issue of suicide human, because we start to see the words brother, uncle, sister and mother. This is not the water rate or the exchange rate. This is a human problem and we need to help each other to make it better."

The visit – organised by University of Winchester Student Services and Winchester Student Union – was part of a nation-wide tour of universities and educational institutions to promote good mental health among young people.

Find out more about the 5asideCHESS initiative and Battling Suicide Bus on their website.

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