10th October is World Mental Health Day, an annual day recognised by The World Health Organisation to provide an opportunity for those working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what more needs to be done. This year’s theme, chosen by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’.

As a Students’ Union, young people’s mental health and well being is so important to us. We would like to take this World Mental Health Day to talk about the work being done and the work left to do. In celebration of #WorldMentalHealthDay we  sat down and to chat with VP Welfare Isabella Camilleri and recorded our very first Welfare Wednesday Podcast. Listen below 👇

Isabella recently attended a University Executive board meeting in response to statements from the father of one of the 10 students at Bristol University in an 18-month period. Isabella and the executive board reviewed the services available to students and are in talks to improve the mental health offer by adapting to a more holistic approach. “We’re making sure that personal academic tutors, support staff, students higher up in the University, the Vice-Chancellor, the Vice Presidents, that they’re all on the same page with mental health, all committed, all passionate and offering preventative help rather than just reactive help to those in a crisis” she says. “It’s being taken really seriously” explains Isabella, “so I’m really looking forward to how we improve our offer and how we improve our services for years to come.” 

 

After a series of suicides from University students, and new research into the number of students who suffer mental health issues after getting a place at Uni through Clearing, the UK’s Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah recently said there is “no negotiation” on prioritising student mental health. 

“the importance of mental health has been taken into something really high-profile around the country, particularly for students in Universities”

“I think I’m in a fortunate position” says Isabella, “because I think alongside me starting this term as VP Welfare, the importance of mental health has been taken into something really high-profile around the country, particularly for students in Universities, I think I’m in a really fortunate position that that is happening at the same time as me being in this role.”

 

Listen: Our very first Welfare Wednesday Podcast

 

What’s to come?

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Isabella works consistently with the University to improve and add services for mental health. One such addition she is looking to make, is the introduction of a compulsory welfare module for all new students to the University. “We want to produce this, in order to help students be more resilient and learn to look after their well being and practice self-care.” Isabella is working to develop the module for all new students, undergraduate and postgraduate, and will contain information on sexual consent awareness, how to live a healthy life, how to spot symptoms if you’re feeling low, and who to talk to about these things. “It adds to the holistic approach so that every student is on the same page and offered the same level of information within this module, I think it would be a really good way to have a preventative approach to mental health.”

“I think it’s super important that we’re doing both the campaigns and spreading awareness as well as practical policy changes”

However, Isabella has found that it can be hard to implement changes such as this, “to make actual policy change and to change the resources we put in to mental health, that’s quite long-term and so it takes a lot of work” says Isabella. “I’ve spent a lot of time networking, and building up a good reputation with staff from the University. It can be long-winded to pass agendas it can be difficult to change policies for long-term change but I think it’s super important that we’re doing both the campaigns and spreading awareness as well as practical policy changes.”

Freshers’ Week can be a difficult time for students and their mental health. This has been recognised by University Mental Health Day 2018, a campaign started in order to empower staff and students to be active in supporting better student mental health. For many students, Freshers’ is the first time they will spend away from established networks of family support and this can be a risk factor for developing mental health difficulties.”We’ve done really well this year, every Fresher was given a lanyard with their ID card and the Student Life contact details on and every Fresher in Halls has received a keyring on every single set of Halls keys.”

Freshers’ can be the best time of your life but it can be very overwhelming too,”it’s OK to say no to going out” advises Isabella, “not everything has to be drinking, it’s an unhealthy lifestyle that you wont be able to keep up. I’ve tried so hard! You just can’t maintain it, it’s been tried and tested, it does not work, eat some fruit and veg and have a night off.”

If you would like to be involved in the conversation please use the hashtag, #humansofSUSU to share your own experiences of mental health.

 

Want to be involved in a Welfare Wednesday Podcast, or would like a topic to be discussed? Send us a message.

 

 

 

 

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