Join the Fight to Make Mental Health a Priority!

As we celebrate University Mental Health Day, VP Wellbeing & Diversity Henn Warwick and Mentality President Milo Dack discuss the importance of talking about our mental health.

Being a student isn’t always the easiest ride. The mountains of essays or submissions, the dreaded 9am lectures, the sudden independence and autonomy can be overwhelming and feelings of loneliness and homesickness at times can really leave you feeling down and stressed.

A normal university year is a roller-coaster, but this isn’t a normal year. The challenges faced by students have been exacerbated and shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. Students have suffered greatly this year, they have lost the ability to socialise and make new friends, been exposed to virtual fatigue, financial difficulties are much more prevalent, potential bereavement and there has been huge disruption to mental health care. Students are rightfully disappointed with how this year has turned out and this will undoubtedly have an effect on their mental health. 

Content warning: Discussion of suicide

Why is University Mental Health Day so important?

Thursday 4 March marks University Mental Health Day: a day of observation to reflect on the student mental health crisis that exists amongst higher and further education institutions. It is a day that brings together the University community to highlight the importance of making mental health a nationwide priority and challenges the current face of student mental health.

Research has found that the student suicide rate has risen by 56% over the last ten years. This means that the suicide rate amongst UK students exceeds that among young people in the general population for the first time. ‘The Tab’ released an article stating that ‘at least one university student has died every week since the start of term’. According to a Randstad report, over a third of students experience a decrease in the state of their mental wellbeing after beginning their higher education journey. These facts are shocking and demonstrate perfectly that more needs to be done. Institutions of higher education have a moral obligation to look after the wellbeing of their students and all too often, they don’t meet that commitment to a satisfactory level.

We believe that it is so important to have these conversations so that we can normalise and destigmatise mental health, so that those who are suffering with poor mental health can seek the appropriate help.  And so, on this day, we hope that we can come together as a community of students and as mental health advocates to champion for greater mental health awareness and support. We can’t do this alone though.

Everyone should join the fight to make mental health a priority!

An interview with Milo Dack (President, Mentality Society)

Mentality is a relatively new student group, for those who don’t know much about it, what is Mentality?

“Mentality is Royal Holloway’s mental health student group. Our role is to promote greater awareness on mental illness and poor mental health and encourage more frequent and meaningful conversations on the mental health stigma. This involves running campaigns with and within the University and the Students’ Union, as well as ensuring that students know of and can access the resources and support that they need to cope with their mental health. We’re organising collaborations with other societies and sports groups, planning panel events that tackle the stigma, and continuing to prioritise the mental health conversation.”

Why was Mentality set up?

“Students should not have to suffer with their mental health. No one should. But when, on average, one in three students suffer from mental illnesses and with poor mental health, it shows that the student mental health crisis is more prevalent than many want to admit. That’s why we set up Mentality: we wanted to bring the mental health conversation to the table and promote greater awareness and conversation on the stigma of mental health. Personally, I’ve experienced what it's like to not have adequate mental health support and to feel like there was no one that I could talk to and I don’t want to stand by while others go through that. That’s why Mentality exists.”

So how do you meet your aims? What do you do?

“Alongside running campaigns with the Students’ Union and the University, Mentality aims to support students suffering with their mental health. We can’t provide counselling and therapy, but we can signpost students to the professionals, whether that be the local GP or the University Wellbeing team, or the NHS’ local mental health team, or even just a chatline such as Samaritans or Nightline where they can be listened to. We want to ensure that students have a voice and that they feel supported and empowered to seek help on their own terms. If you want to support us, then the best way is to get involved with our campaigns as and when they are launched: that is where you can make the real difference!”

Why do you think it's important to talk about mental health?

“The mental health conversation has begun but it is not yet considered a priority for many, including our universities. However, for real and meaningful change to happen, this attitude needs to change. The mental health stigma remains prevalent amongst many students in higher and further education, causing many to endure poor mental health and suffer through diagnosable and manageable mental illnesses. If mental health is normalised, less students would go through university feeling miserable and more would seek professional help to manage their illnesses – but this can only happen once we seriously decide that it’s time to talk about mental health. That is why it is important to talk about mental health.”

Internal support services

Wellbeing team (RHUL)

supportingyou@rhul.ac.uk

The University’s Wellbeing team provide support to all students with their general wellbeing. The Wellbeing Advisors will help co-ordinate the right support for you or refer you to others within the department for longer-term or more specialised support.

Counselling Service (RHUL)

counselling@royalholloway.ac.uk

The University’s Counselling Service work to the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) Code of Ethics and Practice and they are a BACP accredited service. They are open to all students to provide therapeutic intervention to support you during your university life.

Chaplaincy Service (RHUL)

chaplaincy@rhul.ac.uk

The University’s Chaplaincy service is here to offer support to the whole University community. Whatever you believe, whatever your background, whoever you love, whatever your struggles or doubts, and wherever in the world you are - they are here for you.

External support services

Cameron Grant Memorial Trust

Text ‘CAM’ to 85258

Cameron Grant was a student at Royal Holloway who took his own life in 2014, aged just 21. Since his death, his parents have set up the CGMT to campaign for greater awareness and education on mental health and young people suicide.

Samaritans

116  123 (24-hour helpline)

Samaritans provides a confidential support system for people experiencing feelings of distress or disparity, or who might be contemplating suicide or self-harm.

CALM

0800 585858

CALM is a leading movement against male suicide, fighting for the 125 people who take their lives each week in the UK. Of all suicides in the UK 75% are males. CALM is working to change the stigma of mental health and open up the conversation.

Papyrus

0800 068 4141

Papyrus is the national charity dedicated to prevention of young suicide. The aim is to reduce the number of young suicide by shattering the stigma around mental health.

If you or someone you know is an immediate danger or they are at risk of harming themselves or others always call 999. If you are on campus, please call 999 then the Security Services on (01784) 443888 and they will assist with the emergency services' arrival.