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May 19 2020 issue

Masters student supporting young people in lockdown

Young people's mental health is being tested in this pandemic like never before, according to postgraduate student Shaunna Devine.

Shaunna is part of a team of volunteers offering some 'neuro-love' via a recently-launched national project coordinated from Liverpool and supported by private companies, agencies, councils and the NHS.

As an MSc Brain and Behaviour student, she is well-placed to understand the neuroscience of what people are going through emotionally and psychologically. That has helped her create a website for the NeuroLove Project, an online platform to help young people in care to manage anxiety and low mood while staying connected socially.

Neurolove.org enables young people to book one-to-one sessions to chat directly with mentors and therapists and reduce feelings of loneliness. It also features resources and tips to help youngsters manage their emotional and mental health, from group therapy and creative classes to fitness and relaxation exercises.

The project is managed by Chanua Ltd, an agency based at Liverpool Science Park and has backing from Liverpool City Council, the Innovation Agency and others.

In a guest blog about the project for the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, Shaunna writes: "Social distancing guidelines have made many people feel isolated and low. Staying indoors, hoarding food and increased exposure to the news have increased certain mental health issues like; anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

"However many of the common coping strategies, like meeting up with friends, grabbing a coffee or going to the gym are not an option at the moment. We hope that people will think of NeuroLove as a virtual friend, offering positive ideas to make these times feel a little less lonely.

"We've incorporated live classes and mentor sessions and, by offering a series of relevant apps, we hope to make life at home during COVID-19 crisis a little more manageable."

Susannah Walker, programme leader of MSc Brain and Behaviour said: "We're really proud of Shaunna who has been doing this great work with @NeuroChampions."

Meanwhile, we will be sharing a number of blogs by our students on mental health throughout Mental Health Awareness Week. You can find them on our website.

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