Nicola Byrom, Stipendiary Lecturer in Psychology at Somerville College, has been awarded the Queens Young Leader Award by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Trust.
Dr Byrom is one of only three young people in the UK to receive the award, which recognises the work of Student Minds, the mental health charity she founded in 2009 as a graduate student.
“We started out by providing peer support for eating disorders, training students around the country to facilitate student support,” she said. “Today we have a presence in more than 30 universities. Across those universities we’ve got peer support programmes for eating disorders and a programme called ‘Positive Minds’. Better engagement between students and healthcare professionals is one of the priorities.”
Dr Byrom, who came to Somerville in 2014, founded the charity following her own experience of mental health difficulties in her teenage years. Byrom says that social support was crucial to her own recovery from Anorexia Nervosa.
“I spoke to my peers and asked for help,” says Byrom. “That made all the difference – it’s just about having the confidence to be able to ask.”
Following her experiences, Byrom founded Student Minds when she arrived in Oxford to start her DPhil.The charity aims to equip students to support their peers and improve the state of student mental health.
Byrom’s research is also deeply relevant, yet she argues that the relationship between the charity’s work and her own research is very much reciprocal.
“I look at cognitive risk factors for mental health, especially depression, and it’s very helpful because it keeps me focused on what the real issues are that young people are facing,” says Byrom. “It’s always useful to discover how my research may one day be applied in a practical setting.”
To find out more information about the charity founded by Nicola Byrom, go to the http://www.studentminds.org.uk/.