A NEW online counselling service is launching for university students.

Mid and North East Essex Mind will open Chat with Charlie on Wednesday , to those studying at Essex University.

A team of trained volunteers will be on hand to offer online mental health support and signposting to students three evenings a week, between 6pm and 10pm initially, before increasing to seven night per week.

The service has been funded by the Charlie Watkins Foundation, set up in memory of former student Charlie Watkins, who sadly took his own life in March last year.

His brother Harry said: "We are proud to see our first project for the Charlie Watkins Foundation be released this week. Being a young foundation, it has been fantastic to see the amount of support we have received which has enabled us to work with Mid and North East Essex Mind to create this online platform.

"It is hoped that with the successful launch of Chat with Charlie at the University of Essex, that this can be rolled out to universities nationwide, including the University of York where Charlie was a student.”

James McQuiggan, chief executive for Mid and North East Essex Mind, said: "We’re extremely pleased to be able to support the students of the university with this new service and work closely with the family of Charlie Watkins.

"The foundation, which was set up by his twin brother Harry Watkins, are funding the online service.

"With this approach it has enabled us to create something that is current and will engage those that might not normally seek help and advice.

"By providing a service like this we will be able to support those who might need our help, but also raise awareness around mental health and that it’s alright to reach out and talk.

"Chat with Charlie is available to each and every student registered with the university, which means there is potential to provide support to many young people who are often away from home, have pressures on them to succeed and have feelings of isolation."

Charlie, who grew up in Colchester and appeared on dating programme Take Me Out, was just 22 when he took his own life.

To find out more about this service, visit https://mnessexmind.org/