Alex Simpson-Hayter

BA Criminal Justice and Criminology 2023
Talking about
Volunteering with the local community

I am the Vice President and Co-Founder of the SSAFE society at the University of Leeds. SSAFE is a student-led society and stands for Suicide Support and Awareness for Everyone. As the name suggests, we have a focus on mental health and suicide prevention, hoping we can provide support, education and raise awareness around these topics in the local community.

I co-founded SSAFE in my first year of university, along with other students who felt there wasn’t enough support around suicide. I started as the Treasurer two years ago and I’m now Vice President.

The role entails taking a lead on the direction and activities of the society, liaising with external partners and the Union, and providing support to our wonderful committee and members. I will often run events for the society and make sure everyone is happy and knows that we are here to support them.

Reasons to volunteer

I started volunteering with SSAFE as it focused on an issue that was close to my heart and I wanted to provide others with the support that I didn’t receive.

We have helped to raise awareness of the issues and stigmas surrounding mental health, especially within communities where it might have not been spoken about as much.

It’s an incredibly rewarding experience and knowing that I am making a difference to students in Leeds is extremely fulfilling.

Alex Simpson-Hayter

We also provide a safe space at our events for people to speak about their feelings and benefit from peer-to-peer support. Moreover, we have developed a close relationship with the Leeds University Union and it’s safe to say that we have shown them that this is a topic that cannot be overlooked.

Personal and professional development

Volunteering with SSAFE has had an incredibly positive impact on my life. It has been a very rewarding experience for myself and everyone else involved. I didn’t realise how much my volunteering experience as a committee member for SSAFE would impact my personal and professional development.

I feel so much more confident in myself and my abilities. I’ve made new friends and met a variety of different people and students from all over the world.

Alex Simpson-Hayter

I have grown so much as a person and opened so many doors that I would’ve never done otherwise, such as developing a variety of skills and landing my dream placement. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said this was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life!

Awards and rewards

If I had to choose a standout moment, it would be travelling down to London to attend the Bright Network’s Society of the Year Awards, delivering a speech in front of a hundred people (including employers from some major companies). I left with a trophy and £900 for SSAFE to develop our work on destigmatising mental health in the student community. 

It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be nominated and attend the event, let alone win! A lot of the societies there were well established and partnered with external organisations, whereas SSAFE is still laying out its path as we recently celebrated our two-year anniversary of our first event.

Advice for future volunteers

I couldn’t recommend volunteering more. You learn so much about yourself, the community and the wider world. It’s a great way to make new friends, explore your interests and develop your skills. 

Being part of a Society Committee is an incredibly rewarding way to learn more about the student life and community here at Leeds and meet so many people with similar interests. There’s no harm in trying out volunteering and it’s never too late to start!

More information about volunteering

Read more student profiles about volunteering
Find out more about volunteering opportunities as a student at Leeds

If you’re a not-for-profit organisation in Leeds that would benefit from student volunteers, email the Volunteering Team at