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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.

Depressed Student

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 it!
  5. 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 say.
  6. 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 mental health!

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 our peers.

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 Mc Cerery Student Minds

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 team.

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.


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