Why Mo? The stats, the stigma and the human side

  • Average life expectancy for men in the UK is almost 4 years less than for women
  • Men have 14% higher risk of developing cancer than women and 37% higher risk of dying from it
  • Every hour one man dies from prostate cancer in the UK (accounts for 13% of all male cancer deaths)
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 25-49 years old
  • 1/8 men are diagnosed with a mental disorder
  • 75% of deaths by suicide, are men
  • Highest suicide rate is among men aged 30-44

… and some key barriers to doing something about these issues…

  • Lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face
  • Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
  • Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physical or mentally well
  • Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
  • Stigmas surrounding mental health

…so Movember aims to do something about these by raising awareness and encouraging open discussion and taking action, in addition to raising considerable funds for research and treatment.

The response from all walks of life is impressive and within the University there is some great involvement, MOtivated by many things…

Amber Bartlett is a second year French & German student and will be running in the Movember 10k in Bristol on 15th November:

  • How did you first hear about Movember?

I first heard about Movember while in Goldney Hall in my first year at University. A few of the guys from different blocks decided to enter as a team for Movember and grow some impressive tashes. One of my flatmates also started it but he looked so creepy with his tash he caved and shaved it off before the end of the month!

  • Why did you get involved this year?

I had been wanted to move on from 5ks runs to a 10k for a while and considered doing one whilst on my Year Abroad last year but chickened out due to too much eating and too little exercise! Sadly towards the end of my Year Abroad my Dad’s uncle passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer so when I was researching 10ks in Bristol I thought this would be a good way to commemorate his fight.

  • What can Mo Sistas do to help out this Movember?

Just because we lack the physical ability to grow a moustache doesn’t mean we can’t support the cause. Whether that means signing up for a run, sponsoring a Mo Bro or Mo Sista or just talking to people about Movember it’s all important in raising the profile of this fantastic cause.

Check out Amber’s progress at http://uk.movember.com/mospace/9684121


Seb Rodrigues, a first year Economics & Management student, has got involved in Movember for the first time and is currently the leading fundraiser in the University:

  • How did you first hear about Movember?

Through word of mouth really, quite a long time ago. I think it was in Year 8, when I wondered why my schoolteachers all started looking like they were from the 70s.

  • Why did you get involved this year?

I went to a boarding school where they didn’t take too kindly to any form of facial hair. People had asked about Movember but we were never able to do it – so thought I’d start straight away in my first year of ‘freedom’.

  • Any fundraising tips for your fellow Movember participants?

Shamelessly abuse your contacts and keep doing so – post a pleading Facebook status to your friends, ask your parents, ask your friends’ parents; and, obviously, ask them all to ask their friends. Most of us are on student budgets, but donating a pint’s value won’t be too much hardship; for us though, it massively adds up.

See how Seb is MO-ing at http://uk.movember.com/mospace/9864181

Psoriasis week 1-8 November 2014.

Psoriasis is a skin condition which can flare up at certain times, and tends to be life long, but can be improved and controlled. It happens because the skin cell turnover is faster in some areas of the skin than others, causing patches and ‘plaques’.

It can take several forms or distributions, large ‘plaques’, small ‘guttate’ patches (like raindrop splatter pattern), ‘flexural’ creases, nail indentations, like pin pricks, and ‘pustular’, often on the soles of the feet, and palms of the hands.

About 1 in 50 people get psoriasis at some point in their lives.

It most commonly starts between ages 15-30, or after 40. It is more common in white people, and in smokers.

It tends to get worse with stress, sore throat streptococcal infections, skin trauma/ scratching, certain medications, hormonal changes, sunburn (though a little sunlight can be helpful),  and alcohol.

Addressing these factors will help with controlling flare ups, and the condition can be treated with a variety of prescribed creams and ointments. These need to be used with care and by following instructions about application carefully.

Moisturising is vital, and should be a lifelong habit. Certain creams can also be used as soap substitutes. Check with your GP.

Vitamin D based treatments are the cornerstone of treatment, aiming to decrease the rate of skin cell turnover, and smooth the skin.

Specific scalp treatments are also available.

Steroid treatment creams also work, but should not be used for >4 weeks at a time.

Dithranol is a specific topical treatment for plaques, but can stain fabric, and skin!

Severe psoriasis can be referred to a dermatologist, and more potent treatments used, including light or ‘photo’- therapy.

In some cases people can develop joint problems associated with psoriasis.


Here at SHS we are very keen to help address these issues, and understand just how frustrating and challenging dealing with a chronic skin condition can be, so please book a routine appointment with a GP to discuss any worries you may have about your psoriasis.


Here are some helpful resources too;



http://www.psoteen.org.uk/  (under 21s)






Movember is all about bringing back the moustache or ‘Mo’ for the month of November.

It’s about having a bit of fun and putting a spotlight on men’s health, which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

It is for awareness of men’s health in general, but in  particular; prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.

The appearance of new hair on a gentleman’s or ‘Mo Bro’s’ face will be like a walking-talking billboard, promoting the health message. The moustache is a way of generating conversations, awareness and of raising funds for men’s health.


The rules of Movember:-

1)      Sign up at Movember.com. Each ‘Mo Bro’ must begin on 1st November with a fresh, clean shaven face.

2)      Grow and groom a moustache for the 30 days of November

3)      NO fake moustache NO beards NO goatees. That’s cheating!

4)      Use the facial hair to stimulate conversation and raise funds for men’s health

5)      You must conduct yourself like a true gentleman!


It is well known that men visit GP’s and other health professionals less frequently than women, and the average life expectancy for men is on average 4 years less than for women. The reasons for this are numerous and complex but include:-

  • Men being unwilling to discuss their health, or how they feel.
  • Stigma around mental health in particular
  • Men feeling they ‘need to be tough and get on with it’
  • Reluctance to ask for help unless feeling unwell physically
  • Lack of understanding and awareness of men’s health issues.


Movember facts:-

  • Started in Australia in 2003
  • Over 100 million people have grown a moustache worldwide due to Movember
  • Raises in excess of 75 Million US Dollars equivalent each year, worldwide
  • Facial hair grows at around ½ inch a month
  • The world’s longest moustache is over 14 feet long
  • Over 99% of testicular cancers and most prostate cancers can be cured if caught early

Together we can make a difference as well as having some fun over the month of Movember. Please think about joining in and encouraging others.

Bring on facial hair cultivation and create a dodgy Mo!



International Students; blog Autumn 2014.

Almost 20% of the 2.34 million students in the UK are from overseas. At the Students’ Health Service, we and the NHS are here to help you with your health concerns, and worries.  Whether you are feeling physically or emotionally unwell, we will try to improve your situation, and allow you to continue with your academic work.

We have a lot of experience dealing with students from all over the world, and are familiar with a wide variety of health and cultural issues that may arise. We are open minded and non judgmental. We want you to feel able to talk to our doctors and nurses if you are worried. We know that English may not be your first language, or that your symptoms may be treated differently in your home country, or that certain conditions are not discussed openly in some places, but we will do our very best to support you and help you to feel better. Sometimes we have to refer you to other teams for help and treatment, ranging from hospital specialists, to psychiatrists, to the Students’ Counselling Service. All of these people are there to support you to, and most are free of charge.

For more details of any possible costs at hospital treatment level, please see our information on the website http://www.bristol.ac.uk/students-health/docs/overseas-guide.pdf


It may be helpful to understand a little more about how our service works, so here are the basics;

  • Everyone in the UK should see a Primary Care professional (General Practitioner/ GP or nurse) before deciding whether or not to refer to a specialist. We have a ‘gate keeper’ role.
  • Therefore when you have a health problem, the first team you will deal with will be us, and our receptionists will ask you the ‘nature’ of the problem (no need for details), just to ensure you see the right person in our team
  • Primary Care in the UK deals with 90% of health problems, with only the rare few requiring a hospital team at all.
  • Many of our nurses can prescribe, eg for contraception, sexual health, travel, asthma, minor infections etc.
  • Only use Accident and Emergency departments for EMERGENCIES please!
  • If we are closed then phone ‘111’ to get advice about the nearest Primary Care (walk in) centre, or other options, eg dentists
  • Phoning ‘999’ is for life and death emergencies only
  • We are not dentists, and we cannot prescribe for dental infections etc
  • We are not opticians, and so if you need help with glasses/ eyesight issues, please find a local optician
  • We can refer for psychological support, but you can self refer at our Office for physiotherapy/ podiatry/ LIFT psychology  (all free of charge)
  • For Student Counselling Service go straight to their website http://www.bristol.ac.uk/student-counselling/
  • For blood tests you must see a GP first, to arrange and order the correct tests.


We hope this will help you to access health care as and when you need it, but if you are not sure then please do ask our reception team, and they can advise you of what we do and don’t do, or check our website. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/students-health/


We look forward to meeting you and helping to make your stay in Bristol as successful and healthy as possible!


Cough it up! When your cough needs a doctor…

It’s the beginning of the new academic year and all you can hear is coughing. Lecture theatres full of students hacking away, and the same in your flatmate’s room, or the shared lounge. Well don’t worry it’s common, and rarely anything to worry about.

It is normal for a cough to last up to 3 weeks, and 10-20% of the population have a chronic cough, ie one lasting more than 8 weeks.

Coughing is a reflex, clearing your throat of irritants and mucus, so asking your GP or nurse to ‘make it stop’ is fairly futile, but some things can dampen the reflex a little, such as honey and lemon juice in hot water. With a dry cough, pholcodine linctus can be helpful. But most cough medicines are a waste of money and therefore we never recommend them. Dextromethorphan is also a possible medication that can suppress the reflex, in certain ‘over the counter’ remedies, so ask your pharmacist for guidance.


When to see the nurse or doctor then (several Student Health nurses are trained to listen to chests, so can help you sort this out too)?

See us if your cough has lasted more than 3 weeks, or if you are short of breath, or coughing up blood. Also, if you have chest pain, recurrent fevers/ night sweats or unexplained weight loss.


Coughing up green mucus/ sputum is not in itself a reason to worry, as this can happen with viral and bacterial infections. Only bacterial ones may need antibiotics.The symptoms mentioned above are a more helpful guide as to when to get a check up.

Being a smoker or asthmatic may make you more prone to infections, so do mention this when you see us.

We can help you to quit smoking should you decide to take this fantastic step for your wellbeing, and we have a specialist asthma nurse for our asthma sufferers, so do book in with her for regular reviews.

Coughing is common, and in our student population rarely anything to worry about. Try the pharmacy first if you can, and see us if you are worried.



National Smile Month! 19th May- 19th June 2014

Each year the British Dental Health Foundation promotes dental health awareness with its National Smile Month, this year it will be May 19th – June 19th.




Further advice about looking after your teeth while you are a student can be found at




Students are vulnerable to tooth decay and the beginnings of gum disease – looking after your teeth between 18 and 25 will have long term positive effects as well as saving you a lot of money over your lifetime.


Seeing a dentist once a year will help to identify problems while they are small, therefore easier (and cheaper) to sort out. There are lots of preventive things that dentists can do to stop decay in its tracks. One of the simplest things is just having your teeth cleaned, which is enormously beneficial to your gums and helps prevent bad breath. If you haven’t had a snog for a while it could be your teeth need a scale and polish . . .


Unfortunately dentistry is no longer free for students but you can get help on grounds of low income by filling in an HC-1 form for NHS treatment. Always use your term time address so that other family income doesn’t have to be included.

See http://www.bristolstudentdentalpages.co.uk/finding-a-good-dentist/nhs-access  for further advice.


Looking after your teeth now is so important. As the Smile Month website says, most adults wish they had looked after their teeth more when they were younger. By being good to your teeth and gums as a student, you will have a healthier, trouble free mouth both now and in the future, and that will save you a lot of money.


David Obree


Redland Road Dental Practice



Five Ways to Wellbeing at Exam Time

Exam time is a difficult time for everyone, though for some more than others.

So it’s important to remember that you can do things to help yourself remain calm and in control, throughout those weeks when your adrenaline can be flowing a little more rapidly.


Here are some evidence based ways that we can look after our mental health, a bit like a ‘5 a day for the mind and soul’.


  1. Keep Connected; stay in touch with the people around you, the people who care about you and who can support you in life
  2. Be active; go for a walk/ run/ swim, breathe in some fresh air. Exercise on the Downs. Release that adrenaline in a positive way
  3. Take Notice; notice the world around you, the changing seasons, walk around and observe what is happening. Be aware of your feelings
  4. Keep learning; learning new things can be fun if you make time for it, and for yourself too
  5. Give; do something nice for someone else. Cook a meal/ help out your community/ volunteer. It is scientifically proven that being nice to others releases a happy hormone (oxytocin) and makes you feel better too!


However, if doing all these things isn’t enough to support you through a difficult time then remember we are here to help, as are the Counselling service, and other services in the university, like the Multifaith Chaplaincy.

It is normal for exam time to be stressful, that adrenaline can help focus the mind and bring your performance up a notch, but if it feels out of control, and overwhelming then please ask for help sooner rather than later.

Good Luck!

Mental Health Awareness Week 12-18 May 2014; Anxiety

As a GP I really like it when a student comes to see me about their anxiety. Not only because it means they are keen to get help and get better, but also because there are so many things we can offer to ease their symptoms. In the last few years, here at Students’ Health Service, we have tried really hard to provide a variety of treatment options for what is the commonest mental health problem that we see; anxiety.

Anxiety affects people differently (about 1 in 20 people will have it at some time), but in general it makes you feel afraid and tense. It can lead to physical symptoms, as your adrenaline rushes around more than usual. People complain of palpitations (fast heart beat), sweating, nausea (feeling sick), chest pains, and shaking. You can also get headaches, and feel out of breath. It can be normal to feel like this, eg before an exam, but when it starts to interfere with everyday life it can become very challenging. Some people get panic attacks, where the symptoms feel overwhelming, and it can feel like the world is closing in on you, or that you might die. Please ask for help if this is happening. Ideally, please see a GP before it gets this bad.

So what can we offer you?

A variety of psychological (talking based) therapies are available. Relaxation techniques and Mindfulness can be learnt, and the Student Counselling Service provides very regular groups. Just sign up on their website.


Self Hypnosis has been shown to be effective, and a GP can refer you for this; a one off free session provided by Matt Edwards in a confidential environment. Here is a blog written by a student who saw Matt last year;

I tried self hypnosis for my anxiety! You could too… a student writes…


Online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is available for those who would prefer this method; sign up via the SCS website.

Free NHS groups, and 1 to 1 therapy are accessed via the LIFT Psychology service; no GP referral required, just contact them on


However, if psychological approaches are not enough, or might take too long and your symptoms are too challenging to manage daily, then medication can be extremely helpful, and can work within a few days of starting it. Any of the GPs will be happy to discuss this option with you.

So remember, anxiety is normal and common, but sometimes it can become overwhelming or a daily stress, so get help and talk to us soon!

When you hear the word ‘counselling’ what do you think of?

Two people in a room; one talking and the other just nodding and listening? 
Films have a lot to answer for, and for me that image conveys nothing of the aliveness of the relationship that counselling offers.

For instance, when was the last time that a friend or someone in your family really listened to your experience, without confusing it or comparing it with their own? 

The real trick of counselling is that it creates the circumstances that mean you can fully be yourself. By providing relational sounding boards and mirrors it allows you to see and hear the self you are in this moment. Sometimes someone else can see you changing when you can’t see it yourself.
Most people emerge from experiences of counselling feeling better than they did at the start, more able to function and on a positive trajectory in terms of their mental health, but the chances of this are much increased if they can come along with some openness to the process, some belief it could help in some way. This is one of the reasons we ask people to refer themselves, rather than being required to come: they need just a tiny bit of belief, and it can be just tiny.

The other surprise to some is that counselling is not just about two people in a room, in fact increasingly this is less and less so. The Student Counselling Service now offers about 300 students direct support each week and whilst some of them will be in individual appointments, most of these are either initial assessments to establish the best pattern of care for someone, one off follow ups to these meetings to support a person’s self help, 20 minute initial meetings to establish support choices, or 20 minute ‘Drop ins’ to offer immediate triage and signposting to support, or to help keep them on track with ‘Beating the Blues’ (our online CBT support programme). Even our regular sessions tend to be for fewer than 6 weeks.

Over 100 of the total seen are accessing our regular closed groups or coming just this week to an open group, or attending one of our workshops. And that’s without keeping a count of the number of people who use our resource library and website self help pages.

Because of the range of what we offer we registered over 1600 students last academic year, and so far this year we are experiencing a 20% increase on that. We can’t work with everyone but we have a number of useful contacts in the wider community of Bristol, so that no one needs to feel alone with their concerns.

And just one little plug for group work. If counselling helps you see aspects of yourself you can’t yet see , imagine what it might feel like if other students just like you provided the sounding board, or if someone in the group told a story that made you feel you were not the only one struggling with similar things. It is a powerful moment, and every group sees it, when someone says, ‘it’s such a relief…I thought it was just me’.



World Immunisation Week 24 – 30 April 2014; “Are you up-to-date?”

Back in 2012 I watched a BBC documentary ‘Ewan Macgregor: Cold Chain Mission’ http://www.unicef.org.uk/asp/cold-chain-ewan-mcgregor/index.asp. This filmed the actor’s mission as an ambassador of UNICEF to deliver vaccines, and immunise children in some of the world’s remotest places. This particular programme followed his journey to India and Nepal and highlighted the incredible journey he made trekking 2 days over the Himalaya whilst maintaining the ‘cold chain’ of the vaccines he was delivering to remote mountain villages. The cold chain is the essential system of transporting and storing vaccines within a safe temperature range (2°c to 8°c) from the place of manufacture to the point of administration. This ensures people receive an effective vaccine that has retained its viability by not being exposed to temperatures outside of this range. So you can only imagine how difficult this was given the circumstances of this trip!

A couple of things have stayed with me since watching this programme, namely;

• The complicated planning and effort it took the team to maintain the cold chain whilst trekking in the mountains, to preserve the efficacy of the vaccines they were delivering (without a vaccine fridge!). It really was a mission!

• The determination of these few health care workers to ensure even the remotest of children was protected against disease.

• The remoteness of where people live and their lack of basic medical care – to include limited access to vaccinations.

• The relief I saw in the parents as their children were immunised. They understood all too well the importance of immunisation, quoting that the measles vaccine being offered ‘will keep their children safe.’ I got the impression they had perhaps seen at first hand the devastating, sometimes fatal effect of measles infection in a child.

Immunisation is recognised as one of the most successful and cost effective health interventions ever introduced. It prevents 2 – 3 million deaths every year. New vaccines now protect against diseases such as pneumonia and rotavirus diarrhoea- two of the world’s biggest killers in children under 5. We also now have vaccines to protect against cervical cancer for adolescents and adults.

As highlighted in the BBC documentary, large numbers of people are not immunised, and for those who start but don’t finish immunisation schedules this is due to:

-inadequate supply of vaccines

-lack of heath care workers

-insufficient political and financial support

Here in the UK, we are extremely fortunate to have a system in place that is easy to access, evidence based, safe and funded by the NHS to ensure we are all protected against the most devastating ‘vaccine- preventable’ diseases. We now have a schedule that is started in pregnancy to protect pregnant women against influenza, and their babies, when born, from whooping cough – this continues through to the birth of their babies – the first few months of life, toddler age, pre-school age, on to teens and then later on in life above the age of 65 years.

We are very lucky indeed.

However, many people here in the UK are still not being vaccinated or are not up-to-date with the schedule. Unlike some other countries, we have robust systems in place to immunise our population, so why is this?

Lack of education about vaccination is one of the key reasons why adults consciously choose not to be vaccinated themselves, or not to vaccinate their children. Here in the UK, there have been many ‘scare’ stories and ‘controversies’ concerning immunisation that have influenced uptake of vaccinations and unfortunately we are now seeing the after effects of these, one being the recent measles outbreak.

A common misconception is that vaccines are unsafe. Remember they have been widely available for many years- some since the 19th century! They are thoroughly tested for safety before they are made routinely available, and each vaccine’s safety is then continually monitored even after it’s been made available. So in fact they are very safe and millions of children and adults are vaccinated every year without long term adverse effects.

I have at times consulted with students who at the age of 18yrs have never received a vaccine in their lifetime – as their parents did not consent to this. Fortunately, this happens infrequently and the person attending the appointment makes an informed choice, based on what they have read and what we discuss in the consultation, to complete a primary course of vaccinations, to ensure they have adequate immunity in their adult lives.

However, as more research and evidence becomes available, immunisation schedules change – so ‘lack of knowledge’ can be as a result of changes, rather than decision not to immunise. The schedule you received as a child may have changed by the time you reach adulthood. Some people also ‘miss’ receiving vaccinations due to illness on the day of vaccination.

Specific goals for this world immunisation week are:


  1. 1.      For you to know what vaccines are available to protect you against disease
  2. 2.      Check your vaccination status. Perhaps print off the UK schedule and check on behalf of members of your family. Make sure they are all ‘up-to-date’ – remember schedules do change…
  3. 3.      Book an appointment at SHS for any vaccines you think are missing

Young people attending Universities and Higher Education are known to be at ‘higher risk’ for certain infections, including meningitis C and mumps/measles. These infections are spread through respiratory contact- coughing and sneezing, so easily transmitted. By ensuring that you are up-to-date with your immunisations you will protect both yourself and others, via ‘herd immunity’. Herd immunity is ‘the indirect protection from infection of susceptible members of the population, and the protection of the population as a whole, which is brought about by the presence of immune individuals.’ No vaccine is 100% effective- measles vaccine is 90-95% effective, and some people are unable receive a live vaccine like MMR, e.g. the immunocompromised, so by you making sure that you’re up-to-date with your vaccinations you will be giving yourself the best protection available and also contributing to increased herd immunity in the population around you for those who most need protection.

So, are YOU ‘Up-To-Date’?

You need to ensure you have received the following vaccines:

Number of Injections



Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio


combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella


(2 as from August 2104)

Meningitis C


HPV- Gardasil (females under 18 yrs only)


Influenza vaccine – ‘at risk’ groups only


Remember, you are able to find out if you have missed any of your immunisations by checking:

-Your GP immunisation records

-Your parent’s records

-Your school, as some immunisations are given in schools and not documented in your GP records

If you find you are not ‘up-to-date’ with your immunisations schedule, we encourage you to come in to SHS so we may help you complete your schedule.

If you are planning a trip abroad, especially to ‘high risk’ destinations, please always check you are ‘up-to-date’ with your travel immunisations at least 6-8 weeks before you travel.

We have a safe and adequate supply of vaccines in the practice and we take care of the cold chain, so all you need to do is book an appointment with one of the nurses either by phone or online, and they will then administer any free NHS vaccines you are missing.

You haven’t got to cross the Himalaya to receive a life protecting immunisation; you can have them here at SHS, but if you do intend to cross the Himalaya, please ensure you are also up-to-date with your travel immunisations as well!

 Useful Links:

UK Immunisation Schedule:



Measles Outbreak:




History of vaccination, ‘From antiquity to the present day…’



Travel Immunisations: