September 30, 2008

Hub to Help Students

By STUART ABEL Education Reporter

Stressed University of Plymouth students could be put at ease by the campus's own social networking website.

Psychologists and computer experts have teamed up to launch the self-help pages for undergraduates suffering from anxiety or even shyness.

The iHub is similar to social networking sites such as Facebook, with chatrooms and video content but with help pages for depressed students.

Initial research by the university found at least 10 per cent of students suffer some form of 'social anxiety'.

Stress can lead to anything from difficulties such as speaking up in seminars to panic, anger and in severe cases, thoughts of self- harm or suicide.

Graham Russell, lecturer in health psychology, said: "During my research, students suffering from social anxiety identified a range of improvements that could be offered to support emotional well- being and curriculum activities.

"Many of these fell broadly into a self-help category, such as the use of the internet to enhance communication and social networking.

"The university has excellent student support facilities and is renowned for its expertise in e-learning, so with the support and guidance of affected students, a specialist NHS consultant and groups such as the National Phobics Society, we decided to draw on our combined expertise and create the iHub."

The iHub is similar to regular social networking sites in that it has chatrooms, blogs, message boards and video content.

But it also offers self-diagnostic tests, links to external and internal support facilities and recommended self-help books to be found in the university library.

It also gives advice on issues such as stress management, giving presentations and talking to unfamiliar people.

Darren Jones, University of Plymouth Students' Union president, welcomed the idea.

He said more and more students had come to the union's professional counsellors over the past few years seeking help.

Mr Jones added: "Using social networking is a great way of reaching out to students. Whether it is successful or not only time will tell."

The iHub can even be viewed using a mobile phone. Visit the link at

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