‘Feeling less isolated’ – Sheffield Hallam University


The client

Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) is a university with high rates of student satisfaction and sector-leading research. SHU educates over 30,000 students annually, and employs 4,000 staff members.


The challenge

SHU’s existing counselling services were coming under increasing pressure. SHU also wanted to engage with students who were harder to reach, because of cultural stigma or problems around accessibility (UK-wide, some 75% of those struggling with mental health issues cannot or will not reach out for support).

SHU aimed to:

  • connect students with innovative, low-level mental health and wellbeing support, with sound clinical underpinning

  • provide a ‘wrap-around’, out-of-hours support service

  • provide self-management tools, to act as early intervention and crisis prevention, especially for those waiting for counselling support

  • enhance support for staff as well as students

How we helped

Having first commissioned Big White Wall in 2013, SHU offers 24/7 clinically moderated support, in addition to its existing services. Providing a digital option for mental health support is cost-efficient and the service is scalable: there is no limit to the number of staff and students who can use it.

SHU students and staff can discuss mental health issues in a safe environment without fear or judgement, with free access to the BWW Support Network (24/7 anonymous peer support, moderated and facilitated by clinicians) and Guided Support courses (online programmes to learn coping skills on a range of wellbeing and healthy lifestyle topics). The service is immediately available by self-referral from a valid university e-mail address: students can also be referred by the SHU counselling team, and campus-wide marketing brings the service to the attention to students and staff.


Since BWW was first commissioned, over 1,200 SHU staff and students have registered on the service. For many of these people BWW was their sole source of support, while for others it was the initial support they received before they engaged with other services.

In a recent survey, 74% of SHU respondents said that they used the service outside of office hours. 68% reported that BWW had helped to improve their personal wellbeing, most commonly in terms of ‘feeling more able to share’ and ‘feeling less isolated’. 100% of SHU staff members reported at least one work-related improvement, most commonly ‘ability to cope with workload.’ 71% of staff and student members said they found the service helpful, and 81% would recommend BWW to others. The service reaches a diverse mix of SHU members, proving that digital doesn’t have a ‘type.’

Jessica Smith