We can beat mental health stigma
18 Feb 2015 | Becky McCerery
In support of University Mental Health Day, Becky McCerery
from Student Minds explains how students can win the
battle against mental health stigma.
If you haven't experienced a mental health
difficulty yourself, there's a good chance you've met someone who
has. 25% of people will suffer a mental health difficulty at some
point in their life and an astonishing 92% of students surveyed by NUS admitted to
experiencing mental distress.
It's such a common issue in today's society -
so why aren't we talking about it more? A Time To Change survey found that 9 in 10
people with mental health difficulties have experienced some form
of discrimination or stigma. Could this be what's putting people
off talking about it?
The pressures of student life can take a toll
on our mental health, and while there are tonnes of ways you can
access support while you're at university, sometimes we just need a
friendly face to talk to, someone to confide in.
This University Mental Health Day I'd like to
encourage you to TALK about mental health. Even if you haven't
experienced difficulties yourself, just talking about the topic
with your friends over some beers will open a gate for discussion.
The more we talk about mental health in a casual way with our
friends and family and the more we discuss our own problems with
stress, anxiety or an ongoing disorder, the more we will break down
the walls of ignorance and stigma in society.
As students we have the power to shape the
future of our society - starting at our universities. We have the
capacity to campaign on campus for greater mental health awareness
and better support services for student wellbeing, but beating
mental health stigma doesn't need to be a conscious effort - you
can beat mental health stigma in many ways!
- Have a beer with friends. We talk about a
huge range of topics when we are with our friends, ranging from
football to politics. Why should mental health be so different?
Talking about mental health in a relaxed and casual way is the
first step to taking away the power this difficulty can hold over
some of us. It makes mental health an everyday thing which it is
for a lot of people. Making mental health part of your casual
discussion will not only dispel ignorance on the subject but may
also encourage those experiencing difficulties to open up and talk
about it! It could even encourage someone to seek help.
- Offer an ear. We are all bound to
experience difficulties in some way or another while we are at
university, and so many of our friends are under enormous amounts
of stress and pressure. This University Mental Health Day, offer an
ear to a friend or family member who is struggling, make a
conscious effort to check on your friends and talk about any
difficulty they, or you, might be experiencing. Being a part of
your friend's support network can massively increase their
confidence and encourage them to seek help for the difficulties
they are experiencing.
- Student Surveys. Your University wants to
know what you think of their establishment and how you're coping
with the transition to university and the stress it entails. When a
mental health survey comes round, fill it in! This is your
opportunity to speak up about the student support services
available to you and offer any feedback on how they can be
improved. Don't be afraid to say what you feel - that's exactly why
these surveys are distributed.
- Campaigning. A lot of universities will
be taking part in some form of campaign for University Mental
Health Day, such as the #IchoseToDisclose campaign, which gives
students the resources to make an informed choice about whether or
not to disclose their mental health difficulties to their
university. If you're passionate about the subject then this is a
great way to spread the word and abolish the stigma associated with
- Be attentive. As students we have a
responsibility to our peers and friends to make sure we do not let
things like mental health stigma go unnoticed. Often people may
make comments which may be interpreted as insensitive by an
individual experiencing metal health difficulties or by someone who
has an understanding of mental heath and the difficulties some
face. If you are aware of somebody making a comment or judgement
that you are not happy about, you may like to think about
mentioning this to them and helping them understand what about
their comment may have been insensitive. This University Mental
Health Day, make a conscious effort to help your friends and fellow
students understand mental health and think about what they
- Student Support Services and Student
Unions. Speak to your university student support
services or your union if you believe there is more your university
could offer students. Your union are there to support you and
ensure your university does its best to keepyouhappy! Universities
want to keep their students happy and encourage prospective
students so theywilltake your views seriously. Getting involved
with the students union will not only benefit the students it
directly affects, but will also be beneficial to you and your
We are the next generation. What kind of world
do we want our children and grandchildren to live in? We have a
long way to go to beating mental health stigma but I'm watching
people all around me winning the battle. As the next generation we
have a duty to speak out about mental health and offer support to
In time I hope to live in a world where no one
feels alone, no one experiences mental health stigma, and everyone
can access the help and support they need.
This University Mental Health Day I encourage
everyone to SPEAK UP!
Becky McCerery is a member of the Student Minds blogging team.
If you'd like to have your voice on student mental health heard and
are interested in writing for Student Minds, visit this page to find out how to join the
University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day is an annual event to
promote the mental health of those who live and work in higher
education settings. Find out how you can get involved in the day
and support the #IChoseToDisclose campaign.