Statistics show that mental illness is a reality 1 in 4 of us will experience at some point in our lives. According to a survey undertaken by the NUS last year, 8 out of 10 students were suffering from mental health problems – a troubling prospect.
World Mental Health Day is a powerful initiative which raises awareness of mental illness, helping to embolden and empower those who suffer. It requires us to understand that our mental health is our priority, and not something we can ever dismiss. The more we are aware of the suffering of others, the more help and support we can provide to those who need it.
The 10th of October 2016 marked the celebration of World Mental Health day at QM: the interactions on the day showed the student commitment to tackling mental health stigma and discrimination – the range of activities and workshops helped students to share their experiences to one another.
From chalking up creative and inspiring messages around the Library square, Tea and Talk time, and acceptance of a certain elephant in the room, students were encouraged to discuss mental health openly and freely.
The mind apples floating on tree branches in the Square was a particularly heart-warming part – we were asked to jot down five words, from book titles, to food, to a string of inspirational quotes (literally anything) that helps you gets through the difficult times in your life. After, you were asked to tie your mind apple on a branch nearby for others to read and empathise with.
There were masses of students, staff and visitors who took part in the activities and there was undeniably a community feel.
Eve Bolt tells CUB: “we live in an age of diagnosis – there is a direct assumption that others aren’t facing difficulties in their daily lives too without diagnoses.”
She highlights that this is not the case –it is important to recognise that we are all suffering.
We should not dismiss or underestimate our own condition by comparing ourselves to other’s who are diagnosed with illnesses – if a doctor or a psychiatrist has not said anything about your condition, it does not mean your problems are not real.
Eve states: “being a sufferer undeniably has the connotation of also being weak and frail, and it is important to have World Mental Health Day because it shows strength.”
The day was a celebration of reducing the stigma around discussion of mental illness, and encouraging a more open and free discussion about mental illness in an all-inclusive manner.
Miranda Black, President of Queen Mary’s Student Union, tells CUB about the upcoming Self Resilience campaign in early November, which helps students equip the tools they need to cope with the stresses that come with university life, and giving students the support and encouragement to do the very best they can.
She tells CUB about a competition which asked students to design something for mental health last year, and now there is £8,000 of funding for three student sculptures to be built around the university campus – a bold, powerful and inspiring movement which shows the changing perspectives and opinions about mental health.
Laura Potter, Welfare Representative at Queen Mary’s Student Union, played a key role in organising the event. She tells CUB: “Raising awareness is the first step to reducing stigma around mental health problems. According to statistics, there has been a 50% increase demand in mental health services. For students, having the chance to share their personal experiences with peers, getting involved with mental health projects, and campaigning for greater awareness, can make a very big difference. We must encourage students to speak out and create social change if we are to help those who have not yet sought help.”
We must stamp out the stigma, recognise personal issues and others, respect ourselves and others, understand when we need help and do our part by accepting it. We must realise that mental health problems exist, and with understanding and compassion comes resilience and growth.
If sufferers speak freely and openly about mental health problems, and others listen to them, we are already working together to stamp out the stigma and provide people the support they need to overcome their disease. Mental health: QM says let’s chalk about it!
The doors to the Advice and Counselling service are open from 09:30 – 16:30 Monday- Friday during term time; it is a free and confidential service which offers counselling, support and guidance during your time at QM.
If you need any support or guidance, or think you might know someone who does, please reach out and find help at the Advice and Counselling service: https://www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk