UHI Inverness partners with family-run charity for latest student survey campaign

UHI Inverness is teaming up with a local family-run suicide prevention and support charity to raise awareness of its work and to encourage students to complete the latest satisfaction survey.

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Patrick and Jodie Mullery

Students voted at the recent Refreshers event and chose the James Support Group as the charity to benefit from a donation linked to the number of completed Student Satisfaction and Engagement Surveys (SSES). Fundraising events will also be held on campus in aid of the charity, including a bake sale on Friday 31 March­ – the last day of the survey.

The James Support Group was established by the family of James Mullery after the 28-year-old father-of-three took his own life in October 2017. Since then, they have established a network of support groups across the Highlands for people bereaved by suicide and those experiencing suicidal thoughts.

The campaign will be launched at the Inverness Campus on Monday, 20 March. Students will be able to speak to representatives from James Support Group to get information and support, and campus staff will help them complete the student survey online. A similar, but smaller, event will be held at the Scottish School of Forestry in Balloch on the same day.

James’s father Patrick currently runs the support groups and mans the charity’s 24-hour helpline. The charity is now hoping to recruit its first part-time employee.

Patrick from Cromarty said: “The main thing for me about this partnership is that it will make the charity accessible to the students and the staff of UHI Inverness, and they will be aware of what we do and how we can help. Young people are the core group that contact us.” 

James had the gift of the gab and excelled as a car salesman. He worked at Arnold Clark for the majority of his working life and his three sons were only five, two and 10 weeks old when he died.

The family found that after his death there was a lack of support for people bereaved by suicide.

James’s partner Jodie from Avoch said: “I had so many questions after James died and there was no one to ask. I needed to talk to someone who had the same experience as me.”

Jodie, Patrick, James’s mother Wendy and his younger sister Dorothy decided they would try to fill the gap. Their first support group was held in April 2018 and 24 people attended. They established the charity in October 2020.

Patrick said: “People who come to the meetings really get something from it. The people who are bereaved support the people feeling suicidal. They come together and it can result in a complete change, which is really beautiful.”

Both Patrick and Wendy have undergone extensive training and they work with clinical psychologist Dr Nicola Urquhart who is also a trustee.

Dr Urquhart said: “We know from the research that suicide rates in the Highlands are higher than the Scottish national average. Suicide is complex, there are no single reasons for why someone may take their own life. However, every one of us will know someone who has died by suicide or has been affected by suicide. We aim to make a difference to people who have been bereaved by suicide, those who struggle to stay alive and those who have recovered from suicidal crises. It is crucial that we promote awareness around suicide so that people feel less alone and get the support they need. I feel privileged to be a part of James Support Group and we encourage anyone who is in difficulty to reach out. Help is there.”

Jodie studies HNC Fashion Make-up at UHI Inverness and James’s sister Dorothy studies Beauty Therapy. Jodie said studying at UHI Inverness has been a source of support.

Jodie said: “When James died, I felt totally lost, I lost my identity, but I obviously had responsibilities to provide for my children and I decided to retrain and everyone at UHI Inverness has been amazing to me.

Last year UHI Inverness partnered with Mikeysline for the Early Student Experience Survey. It resulted in a 55 per cent response rate and unlocked a £1000 donation for the charity. The overall student satisfaction rate of 95.3 per cent was among the highest in Scotland.

The survey gauges how students feel about their student experience, and it helps to inform any changes and improvements.

Lindsay Snodgrass, Vice Principal of UHI Inverness, said: “We are delighted to partner up with the James Support Group for our survey and we hope it will act as an incentive to encourage our students to share important feedback about their learning experience, while also supporting a local charity. We welcome the opportunity to work with such an important local charity.”