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News > Old Girls' Association > Spotlight on Sarah Campbell

Spotlight on Sarah Campbell

St Swithun's alumna, Sarah Campbell HA 2001 has just gained her PhD but it didn't happen in the way she expected…

Interviewed for OGA Chain magazine 2019

Where did you go after St Swithun’s?
“After St Swithun’s I went on to Epsom College to study my A-levels. I wanted to attend as a day girl instead of boarding and my brother was there too.”

Did you head off to university after that?
“No. This is where my journey differed from most of my friends. I’d been working in a restaurant and was really enjoying the financial freedom. Going to university just didn’t feel right at the time and much to the horror of my family, I decided to move to Brixton with a friend from the restaurant instead.”

How did that unfold?
“It was great. I went to work for a small, independent record label and quickly worked my way up the ranks - in just over a year I had learnt a huge amount. I was also playing bass in my own band, gigging and recording at weekends.  After a while I decided to focus on the band, so we hired a manager, recorded songs and gigged for a while - until my dad had a triple heart bypass and I became his carer. That made me re-evaluate my life.”

Is this when you thought about psychology?
“Well, that was something I’ve always had an interest in - when I was young I’d wanted to be a serial killer profiler!  Even though I’d learnt a lot in my previous jobs, I knew that I couldn’t really progress without getting a psychology degree.

It was a huge lifestyle change to go from being independent to living in halls at university.  The first term was hard but I met other selffunding, mature students and we all shared a dedication to learning.  I went on to work with children with autism, run a team at the Centre of Excellence for Professional Training and complete a placement at Broadmoor. I still use now the many skills I acquired during this time.

Before my final year, I signed up for a music technology course and that steered me towards music psychology. I actually changed my dissertation to focus on music and emotion.”

Did you set up your own business after graduating?
“No. Next, I got funding for my PhD, worked as a lecturer, a researcher, a scientific director on a wellbeing app and was head of wellbeing at a music university. All of these experiences led me to create my business in some form or another.”

You are the founder and director of Play Well for Life. What does that entail?
“Play Well for Life brings the fun of games to the serious business of improving mental health, using evidence-based psychological principles. It brings a fun, informative and more effective approach to improving mental health, through workshops and game-based
learning.

Its unique approach means learning is continuous which creates real, long-lasting improvement. As well as making people happier, it equips them with the knowledge and skills to deal effectively with whatever life throws up, whether now or in the future.  We also have a digital product, Furry Feeling Frenzy, which is a music and game-based smartphone app to improve and track your mental health.”

Do you have a large team of people working with you?
“At the moment, we are working with 150 young people across 10 organisations to codesign the games, ensuring it is a product for young people, created by young people.  We ensure that some of the young people with design input have a range of physical and learning difficulties, to ensure it is inclusive and accessible by design.  We ensure the way the business operates aligns with what we are trying to achieve.”

How has it been received so far?
“This year I was shortlisted as a finalist in the Institute of Directors’ Student of the Year. I won Highly Recommended Runner-up - even  meeting Trevor McDonald on the night.”

How do you think St Swithun’s helped contribute to your success?
“I had dreamed of going to boarding school and I loved it. It taught me how to live with others and about being independent. In that environment, you have to consider other people’s feelings and so you learn resilience and the ability to stay with a problem until you have solved it.” 

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