We also had success on campus, securing a new senior counsellor post, three extra counsellors / cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) specialists, a drug and alcohol worker, and five new mental health and wellbeing mentors.
This year, the It’s OK campaign aims to strengthen University community awareness and responsiveness to mental health, through regular meet-ups, training for students and staff as well as comedy sessions for men, which can break down barriers to talking about mental health.
Mental health can be a difficult subject to talk about and often stigma can get in the way of reaching out for support and advice. Our Community Officer Lily and Vice President Cheshire Amie are championing positive attitudes towards mental health and encouraging more open conversation about the challenges of student life.
Mental health is becoming very prevalent in student life, with 1 in 4 students suffering with mental health and 12% of students having suicidal thoughts during their time at university. These are some of the many reasons I decided to continue to campaign around mental health and continue the success of last year’s It’s OK campaign.
This year we are focusing on creating support groups and safe spaces for peers, as well as improving the support and services the University provides.
One way we are going to achieve this is through supporting our student leaders with disclosure training. During my time at university I was a student leader, chairing the Gaming society for two years. From this, I experienced students disclosing problems they were going through, from personal to academic issues. Our student leaders are a great asset to The Union and provide social, safe and active environments for many students.
We hope the training we are providing student leaders will give them the tools to support others during their time at university.
We are also creating supportive peer networks by running regular It’s OK to Talk sessions. This month we are going to be making Christmas decorations in our first official It’s OK meetup which takes place on Thursday 23 November in Manchester and on Friday 24 November in Crewe, where we’ll be making Positivity Advent Calendars, with all materials provided. We’ll help you to make quirky calendars with traditional chocolate or sweets inside each day, as well as a kind message to yourself to keep you warm in the Winter months. This is a great way to meet new people and unwind from the day. We really hope you'll join us.
One of the reasons I wanted to lead this campaign alongside Lily this year was down to being a Residential Advisor last year and witnessing the plethora of issues students face in their day to day life. Another reason was my friend taking his own life. I made a commitment in my manifesto that, if elected, I would focus my mental health plans around men’s mental health. Men make up 75% of suicides each year. I want to try so hard to reduce this figure and make men more than just a statistic in a report.
Halls are the most common place for students to make life-long friends. As a result of this, you end up talking openly about struggles and most of the time you just don’t know what to say. One of my aims this year is to provide ‘Look After Your Mate' training. It’s not so you know how to become a counsellor to your friend, it’s for you to know the right thing to say, or even to be comfortable in saying "That sounds really difficult. Do you want to talk about it?”
Our It’s OK to Talk sessions are there for meeting people in similar situations to you so you feel less alone. Let’s break down the barriers to mental health and tell ourselves that it really is OK to talk.