The event has been introduced by (UMHAN) University Mental Health Advisors Network – a leading UK mental health charity at the forefront of a nationwide effort to introduce mental health initiatives; keeping communication about mental health relevant and engaged, not only in the media, but in schools and universities throughout the UK.
It is a truly unique opportunity for every university involved, to design their own cycle of events in the hopes of not only tackling the issue of mental health, but educating the public about mental health perceptions as well as providing community support, via counselling and team-building exercises, to those who need it most.
Mental health is a really big issue facing many young people around the world, but trying to break away from years of stigma abounding perceptions of mental health, and overcoming the negative and often dehumanising forms of discrimination faced by many sufferers (at university and in the work-place), perhaps seem like an overwhelming and even impossible task. But it is ultimately thanks to charities like UMHAN bringing initiatives like University Mental Health Day to public attention, that we even have a platform to open this discussion in the first place.
Last year alone, the event saw over 70 universities taking part. Thousands of students attended, as well as hundreds of volunteers and staff members, who all took part in a variety of activities; from yoga classes and gardening, to a wellbeing march that saw hundreds of people walking together in support of mental help. A triumphant effort to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health.
This year’s event - Active Mental Health - will be looking specifically at the link between mental health and the importance of keeping fit. Depending on where you live, you could be attending any number of fun activities. They are all in aid of educating students on the importance of physical activity and relaxation – from football to yoga. And with many mental health service members dotted around campuses on the day, it is also a fantastic opportunity to give your feedback and voice your concerns.
Last year, as a student studying an MA, I had the opportunity to experience mental health issues first hand. Suffering bouts of depression and increased levels of stress, and faced with looming deadlines, it was fair to say that I felt a bit lost - surrounded by a sea of faceless students and white-washed corridors.
Facing problems head-on has never really been my style, so recognising that I had a problem wasn’t going to be easy – maybe it was a pre-conceived notion that talking about problems only made things worse, or the fact that I didn’t know who I could turn to for advice about my problems – but for a long while, I went on suffering in silence, even stopping going to class altogether.
Inevitably and unsurprisingly, my attempts to fall completely off the face of the earth didn’t go unnoticed by several teachers (and in particular one very worried tutor) as I found out one day when they all emailed me simultaneously. So I wrote them all an email back, explaining everything that had happened. To my absolute surprise, I wasn’t met with contempt or judgment, but rather a lot of support (my tutor even helped me to get my deadlines extended), which gave me the opportunity to reflect on my situation and realise that I did need help.
Now having successfully finished by studies, I can definitely say having a stable support system and educating myself on the issue, I was able to overcome what seemed like one of the worst times of my life. Eager to learn even more, I hope to join many others on 2nd March in addressing the obstacles that a lot students, especially those experiencing mental health issues face.
#UniMentalHealthDay is about finding what works for you, so be sure to find your nearest event this Thursday!