A University of Winchester student has been using her time on her phone to support people facing mental health and loneliness challenges.

Olivia Cochran, a 21-year-old psychology student, is a remote support worker for Hammersley Homes, a charity supporting adults with enduring mental health problems and those who suffer with loneliness.

Ms Cochran, from Hailsham, East Sussex, assists three individuals, calling weekly to provide a sympathetic ear to their worries and solve any issues they struggle with.

Hampshire Chronicle: Olivia Cochran is supporting those who need helpOlivia Cochran is supporting those who need help (Image: University of Winchester)

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She said: "At the beginning it was quite daunting having to appear confident and competent.

"But I have become more confident, and I think I know how to talk to people with problems and I think this comes across."

Her BSc Psychology course at the university, she said, has helped her in her volunteering role and vice versa.

She added: "It’s given me a great understanding of mental health issues.

"It’s one thing reading about these issues but it’s quite different when you see people experiencing them for real."

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Three years back, Ms Cochran suffered from stress and anxiety due to a severe swimming injury which left her with permanent nerve damage.

She tore the trapezius muscle at the base of her neck, which means she sometimes has difficult walking and must take painkillers.

The unfortunate incident inspired her to study psychology at university.

She said: “I became interested in psychology while reading about the workings of the brain after my injury."

Ms Cochran hopes to pursue a career in clinical psychology.

After completing her course, she will embark on a four-month paid internship with Change 100, a scheme run by Leonard Cheshire, to work with people dealing with mental health issues.

Louise Hallett, a founder and trustee of Hammersley Homes, said: "We rely heavily on people like Olivia to volunteer with us and help us to support some of the vulnerable people we work with.

“Olivia has been amazing and has made a real difference to the lives of the people she calls each week, offering a listening ear and some friendship."

Dr Joe Subbersfield, senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, who leads the department’s volunteering module, said: “Volunteering provides an excellent opportunity for students to get outside of our lecture theatres and labs, and to put their knowledge and training into practise.”