The events held in recognition of World Mental Health Day, which took place on 10 October, have received a mixed reaction from students at the University.
A second-year Chemistry student with depression told Nouse: “It seemed very much an event about how to keep mentally healthy for already mentally healthy people.As someone who is depressed, I went down looking for information and help but there was nothing of the sort. Not even anything to raise awareness for such conditions, just a few charities and the on-campus services (and the “happiness bags” with things such as “string to help you hold it all together”). I think [they] could have done much better.”
A second-year English and Philosophy student with seasonal affective disorder was equally dismissive, saying: “When you have a mental illness … sometimes just getting out of bed is a
real struggle. There should have been more information on how to access services as well as more obvious help for those who are struggling.”
A Physics student was slightly more positive and told Nouse: “The event was friendly and gave off a cosy feeling. For those struggling to deal with adjusting to university life or dealing with a bit of a rut it would have been just what they needed.”
However, in his opinion, the event fell short of one of its key aims, as it “failed to tackle some of the larger mental health issues such as the stigma surrounding them. It also didn’t do enough to help those who were trying to use the event as a way to reach out for help with serious problems.”
The organisers said that the day’s purpose was to raise awareness of mental health for everyone, removing the stigma associated with mental illness by showing how everyone has mental health. They marked World Mental Health Day by hosting a wide variety of events. Charities including Lifeline; campus services such as the Open Door team and Nightline; and representatives from other third party mental health organisations gathered in YourSpace to hand out information and offer details of their services.
Alongside this, other features throughout the day included free cups of tea and “happiness bags”. There was also an initiative to post paper butterflies around campus with ideas on how to have good mental health days written on them, as suggested by students. The day included social media campaigns to help raise awareness of mental health as well.
Despite the issues some students had, many people who attended found the day worthwhile. The team who organised the events shared a survey after World Mental Health Day to gather feedback. Of the students who offered a rating of the day, 75 per cent of students surveyed rated the day as four or five stars, while 100 per cent of respondents said they would be interested in attending another, similar event concerning mental health.
A second-year English and History of Art student told the organisers: “I loved what you guys did… never before have I felt so accepted and supported with my mental health issues at the University.”
A second-year Politics with International Relations student also praised the event, saying: ““I was so proud of our university yesterday, and continue to be proud of our welfare systems entrenched so deeply within the colleges and the University as a whole. This is a credit to the University, its staff, and its students, and our open-minded attitudes. Thank you for giving the students such an opportunity to be open about what is an isolating issue.”
Jemima Busby, Welfare and Community Officer, said: “The aim of the event was to raise awareness of WMHD and get people talking about mental health. We hope that this event is just the beginning of further work on mental health across campus and would really appreciate feedback as to how we can make this event even bigger and better.”
A representative from the World Mental Health Day team said: “We tried a new, vibrant approach to de-stigmatize the topic of mental health and break down borders that separate many students from the knowledge and information surrounding mental health. This approach was successful beyond all of our expectations.
“With that in mind, we welcome and encourage comments and criticism from those who attended and engaged with us and the 11 professional organisations that made up part of our World Mental Health Day offer.Thanks to the overwhelming positive responses that we have received, a new group will be formed to further the positive steps we have already made, which was not originally part of our mission. So far, over a dozen students have expressed an interest in being involved, and any others who wish to be a part of this group are urged to message our Facebook page.”