University Mental Health Day 2020

Thursday 5 March was University Mental Health Day, and to celebrate, VP Welfare & Diversity Lucy Simpson has shared some important information about what mental health is, and how to look after yourself and your loved ones.

Every year, Student Minds comes together with Universities Mental Health Advisors Network to run University Mental Health Day, which was this week!

This day looks to recognise and increase understanding of the difficulties that students face with regards to their mental health.

Over the last few years, mental health has leapt to the forefront of the public eye and increased in importance both nationally and locally. But there is a long way to go before we can truly say that there is no stigma associated with mental health and that there is good access to mental health services.

It’s no surprise that mental health is a major concern when:

  • One in five students report a diagnosis of depression
  • 42.5% of students report having high levels of anxiety, often or always feeling worried
  • Around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder (men and women)

So what does mental health actually mean?

Mental health is something that we all have. It relates to our regular mental state, and how we are able to deal with the daily and normal life difficulties that we face. We all have bad days from time to time, whether this means that you were stuck in traffic, skipped breakfast, had a relationship breakdown or just woke up on the wrong side of bed, this all contributes to our mental health.

When things become so overwhelming to the point that your ability to function starts to become impaired, this can lead to a mental illness. However, you can have a mental illness, but good mental health or no mental illness and bad mental health. We refer to this as the wellbeing continuum, which you can see in the image below.

I get overwhelmed sometimes, does this mean I have a mental illness?

Not necessarily, there are specific diagnostic criteria worked out by expert psychologists and psychiatrists which you have to meet in order to have a diagnosis. However, if you are unsure, don’t be afraid to ask someone.

A GP is the first line to getting support and will be able to diagnose certain conditions, if they can’t then they can refer you to a psychiatrist who has more specialist understanding. There is real benefit to getting a diagnosis, in that this allows you to ask for more support, for example therapy or medication.

You can even register at the Disability and Dyslexia service at the University who can help you make arrangements for support with your studies.

What can I do if I am struggling with my mental health?

There are a lot of things that you can do!

Friends and family

Friends and family are an amazing resource and support network. Talk to them about how you are feeling, the feeling of hiding how you really are can sometimes add to the negative feelings you are experiencing. They can also help to check in with you and be there to talk when you need.

Student Wellbeing

Speak to Student Wellbeing – this is a team of people at the University who help students when they are having a bit of a hard time. They can give advice to help you, check in with you and suggest other services which might be able to help you.

Student Counselling

Speak to Student Counselling – this is a completely free service run by the University. They have a team of qualified counsellors who are there to talk when you need to, even if you’re only a little bit homesick or just need to vent, they are there whenever you need.

The counsellor can help you gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, and find your own solutions to problems. But they won't usually give advice or tell you what to do.

Student Groups

Get involved with a student group – whatever your interest, there will always be someone who shares your passion. The Students’ Union has around 130 groups, and eight Collectives to choose from, and the University runs a Volunteering team.

If there is something you enjoy, but there isn’t currently a group, then come and speak to us and we can help you set one up! Each year we help around 15-20 new groups form!

GP Appointment

Make an appointment with a GP – GP’s can help diagnose, prescribe and suggest helpful actions that can help you feel better.

Balanced diet

Healthy you! – Research shows that eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly significantly helps with improving and maintaining positive mental health.

There are lots more things that you can do to help yourself feel well, Mind, Student Minds, and the NHS have lots of resources and advice to help you (or a friend).

The good news is that you can recover from a mental illness. And having poor mental health does not mean you will get a mental illness.

Mental illnesses are often largely caused by physical or medical factors such as chemical imbalances within the brain, and just as you can recover from a physical illness, you can treat and recover from a mental illness.

See more about University Mental Health Day here.

Lucy Simpson // Vice President Welfare & Diversity