A new digital support platform has been launched to support all students in recovery from, or at risk of, alcohol and drug-use problems.

HEART (Higher Education and Recovery Talk) has been launched by the charity Recovery Connections to support students in recovery; those struggling with, or at risk of active addiction and those affected by familial addiction problems as they enter one of the most challenging, transitional and exciting phases of life.

While collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) are well established in the USA, the approach is relatively new in the UK, with only two universities, Birmingham and Teesside, taking a proactive approach to supporting students in recovery. Meanwhile, it’s reported that the USA now has over 150 established CRPs.

Recovery Connections, which established the UK’s first CRP at Teesside University, is keen that all universities acknowledge and support students in recovery. HEART will meanwhile bridge the current gap in provision and provide free, ongoing digital recovery support that universities can signpost their students to.

With support from the Government’s National Recovery Champion, Dr Ed Day; LBC presenter and mental health campaigner and researcher Natasha Devon MBE; Behavioural Change Specialist, Shahroo Izadi, and researcher and Liverpool University lecturer, Dr Suzi Gage, the platform provides peer support, expert advice and signposting to a wide range of recovery services. While it has been launched to tie in with freshers’ week, it has been created for students at all stages of university life.

Recovery Connections CEO, Dot Smith, said: “There are times in life when peer pressure and new-found independence and responsibility can negatively impact those who are vulnerable to mental health and addiction problems.

“Fresher’s Week is always a really exciting time for new undergraduates, yet the overwhelming focus on alcohol can be problematic for many students who are finding their feet and making new friends. Additionally, those who have been impacted by family addictions may also seek non-drinking social opportunities.

“Having left home, most likely for the first time, many of these students may be missing their support networks and may struggle to speak openly to their new friends and university staff about what is often considered a taboo subject that carries a lot of stigma. That is why we wanted to launch an online support platform – to be there when students might be feeling lost and alone.”

Dr Ed Day, National Recovery Champion, said: “Education can be a crucial part of the recovery journey from addiction. However, the transition to university can be challenging, and making new friends in a social context where alcohol and other drugs are prominent is difficult whilst maintaining abstinence. Peer support from others in recovery can really help, and the new HEART platform will be a significant asset in helping students find others in recovery. I will be promoting it throughout the new network of Collegiate Recovery Programs that is developing in the UK.”

The platform provides students with a place to talk, even anonymously, publish their thoughts and experiences, and become part of a community where they can safely, comfortably, learn from and share with one another. Students can also access useful contact details of other charities and organisations that can provide additional support, and sign up to regular newsletters featuring updates and useful information.

HEART has been made possible thanks to grant funding from Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) – Covid-19 Action Fund.

To access HEART go to www.heartoncampus.co.uk

For further information about Recovery Connections visit  www.recoveryconnections.org.uk