Fika and the University of Birmingham bring app-based mental skills training to students

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Emotional fitness app Fika has captured a mental skills training programme created by the University of Birmingham, turning it into app-based workouts aimed at students UK-wide.

The partnership will see the University of Birmingham’s MST4Life™ (My Strengths Training For Life™) programme brought to life as a guest programme in the Fika app - and will feature the university’s own students as they learn to train their mental skills.

The MST4Life™ programme was developed by sports psychologists and academics at the university, in collaboration with youth homelessness charity St Basils. Developed over six years, the programme draws on sports psychology to strengthen the resilience, confidence and coping skills of young people, and has already benefited hundreds of 16-to-24-year-olds.

Fika is designed for the UK’s 2.3 million university students, offering accessible, evidence-based ‘emotional workouts’ to boost students’ wellbeing, academic attainment and employability. 

Like MST4Life™, Fika also draws on sports psychology, featuring content from Olympic athletes and British sports stars. Fika’s emotional workouts encourage students to build ‘emotional muscle’ across areas such as confidence, focus, motivation, positive thinking, stress management and connections with others.

Fika’s MST4Life™ guest programme will feature video stories of students as they work through MST4Life™ activities such as choosing their ‘Dream Team’ - a sports-inspired concept helping young people build their support network.

Dr Fran Longstaff, Head of Psychology at Fika, said: “There are clear similarities between the interpersonal MST4Life model, and Fika’s app-based model: both draw on sports psychology and fitness culture to make emotional wellbeing accessible; and both encourage young people to identify and build on their strengths and coping skills.

“We’re delighted to offer MST4Life an opportunity to mainstream its programme across a wider student community - and we’re particularly excited to capture MST4Life ideas like ‘Dream Team’ within Fika.”

Dr Jennifer Cumming, a Reader in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham and co-creator of the MST4Life™ programme, said: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Fika on this project. Just as we’ve used MST4Life to strengthen and empower young people experiencing homelessness, we’re confident in its transformative potential for a whole generation of university students.

“We know from Fika’s own research that 77% of students struggle with the transition into university. We look forward to working with Fika to strengthen their resilience, confidence and coping skills - and to seeing how they engage with the MST4Life model.”

Fika launched last year and is already in use by thousands of students across the UK. The product of more than two years’ learning and development, the app has benefited from the input of seven psychologists, more than 100 academics and more than 2,000 students, as well as a team of researchers and product experts.

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)121 414 2772.

MST4Life™ helps young people identify and build on their strengths, set goals for the future, plan ahead for challenges, learn to express their emotions and develop coping strategies for stressful situations. The programme has reached more than 600 young people supported by St Basils Charity.

MST4Life’s Dream Team Model encourages young people to identify and communicate with their ‘dream team’ - a diverse support network which should include:

  • Medic: a reliable presence who provides emotional/physical support and makes you feel better
  • Attack: energises you, gets things moving; someone you can have a laugh with
  • Defence: gets the job done, stands up for you, provides stability
  • Captain: a role model who thinks calmly under pressure and provides direction
  • Caretaker: someone trustworthy who takes care of you and provides practical support
  • Coach: someone who encourages you, motivates you, and provides helpful advice
  • Manager: someone knowledgeable with good organisational skills, who can see the bigger picture
  • Supporter: someone who supports the decisions you make and pushes you to reach your goals

About Fika

Fika is an education technology company arming students with the life skills they need to thrive, at university and beyond.

The Fika app features audio and video content and emotional workouts designed to help students build emotional muscle across seven key areas: confidence, motivation, focus, positivity, sense of meaning, ability to connect with others, and ability to handle stress. Fika’s own research has shown these seven skills are the key components affecting student retention, attainment, employability & social inclusion on campus.

Fika is science-backed, drawing on methods and theories spanning sports psychology and positive psychology as well as acceptance and commitment therapy, solution-focused therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness.

Fika began life in 2019 in the higher education market, and has a growing list of UK university partners including Bath Spa University, the University of Exeter, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Lincoln, London Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales. Users at non-partner universities can purchase a Fika subscription through the App Store and Google Play. 

Fika has been shortlisted for Start-Up of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and for Most Innovative Idea to Improve Mental Health at the This Can Happen Awards.