Invisible Illness Week

~ Hannah O’Brien

Invisible Illness Week

The 25th-29th November marked a brilliant awareness campaign. The campaign looked at both mental and physical illnesses that often go unnoticed and that you cannot truly see without knowing more about the person. This included eating disorders, anxiety and depression, which is what Swansea Mental Wealth Society and Student Minds focused on.

One of the main aims of the campaign was to get people talking about mental health, and to challenge stigma attached to mental illnesses, because they are more common than people think. In fact 1 in 4 people will experience mental illness within the course of a year, with the most common being anxiety and depression. The main reason these illnesses tend to go unnoticed is because those suffering often do not feel able to talk about them: they may be embarrassed or shy, or it might be that they don’t want people to worry or don’t know how to bring up the conversation. That’s why invisible illness week brought the conversation to you, and offered anyone the chance to speak up about their illness. It was surprising, encouraging and inspiring how many people took the chance to talk. They were extremely positive about the campaign, our peer support group, and the power of talking.

Because talking changes lives.

Preparing for Christmas

Anxious about heading home for Christmas? Here are some tips on how to negotiate the festive season…

christmas

Plan ahead

You might find that Christmas means a change of routine, from waking up at a different time to having your extended family over to stay. Ask your family about their holiday plans and let them know about any small things they could do over the festive period to make things easier for you. Remember to make time for the things you enjoy, such as meeting friends or going to the cinema.

Look after yourself

With all the changes in routine, going home for Christmas can mean it’s easy to forget about the simple things. Make sure you get enough sleep, keep in touch with your friends and schedule in some ‘me time’ every day.

Volunteer

If you feel a bit cooped up over Christmas, why not explore some of the volunteering opportunities in your area? Lots of charities need extra help at Christmas and it’s a great excuse to meet new people and to do something a bit different that will leave you feeling happy and productive.

Remember what you love about Christmas

Try to focus on the fun aspects of Christmas: playing board games as a family, heading out to Church or going for a walk on Christmas afternoon… anything that you enjoy about the festive season. If this seems difficult, try thinking back to what you enjoyed most as a child – I always used to wake up really early in the morning and sit in my brother’s room reading Harry Potter to pass the time until we were allowed to open our presents. Even though the waking up early part doesn’t tend to happen any more, I still like to read a chapter or two of Harry Potter on Christmas Day… just for old time’s sake.

And relax!

Lastly, don’t forget to give yourself a little time out to relax:

  • Call a friend to wish them Happy Christmas.
  • Escape to your room for a few minutes and spend some time listening to your favourite CD or reading a novel.
  • Indulge yourself: have a long hot bubble bath, paint your nails, put on a face mask or sit back with a mug of coffee and a good book.
  • Relax: meditate for a few minutes or do some relaxing yoga.
  • Head out for a Christmas walk – maybe you have a boisterous puppy in need of exercise, or a young cousin who is bouncing off the walls with excitement… or maybe you just want a few minutes of alone time. Either way it’s always great to get some fresh air, and to be able to wish a few strangers ‘Merry Christmas’ along the way!

So all that remains is to wish you a very merry Christmas – happy holidays everyone! 

Volunteering as a Student Minds group facilitator

~ Juliet Amponsa-Gyasi

So what does a Group Facilitator actually do?
The short answer is simply to facilitate.

Facilitate

The focus of the support groups is not for the facilitators to do all the talking. We simply give the people who attend a welcoming, comfortable space as well as time and security to speak if and/or when they want to about issues surrounding their past/present/future feelings about their eating related issues. The group sessions also give the attendees a chance to reflect on their feelings and emotions during that week, to help verbalise how they have been doing. We try to ease the flow of conversation and encourage people to take part, but we are happy for people to just sit and listen until they feel comfortable enough to speak themselves.
When I think of the volunteering experiences I’ve had, being a facilitator stands out so far above the rest. The importance of just being able to listen and engage well without talking (too much) really comes in to play during the weekly meetings. All facilitators receive training in how to run the support groups as well as how to deal with sensitive topics. It’s really been amazing to be able to hear so much about other people’s experiences and to see just how far some people have come in recovery. The support groups are a great way to get people interacting more and to allow attendees to support each other without anybody telling them they are going about recovery the wrong way (us facilitators will see to that). Sometimes the topics can get quite difficult but at every meeting there is support available for the students as well as the facilitators themselves. Each group is run by two facilitators and after every meeting each facilitator gets a supervision Skype or phone call to feedback on how the session went and whether there were any issues that came up during the meeting.
Volunteering for Student Minds so far has been a truly rewarding experience. I’ve not only built upon transferable skills but also helped run a support group that really helps people to help themselves as well as others. Again I can’t stress how amazing it is to hear somebody tell you the sessions are really helping. It’s even helped me too! I’ve been surprised to realise how much I’ve learnt from some of the attendees in terms of overcoming difficult situations. The sessions have really helped me to broaden my perspective on certain things and I couldn’t be more grateful for such an amazing insight. The courage it takes to even attend the meetings speaks volumes and talking about issues that affect all students really allows the experience to be well suited to anyone. I couldn’t recommend the experience enough…
So guess what!!! Student Minds is recruiting new volunteers for universities all across the UK from the 18th November 2013 (so right now)! Here is your chance to not only gain skills and experience related to your chosen career or job but also a chance to give your time to help somebody else to start enjoying their own time more too. If you have a genuine interest in helping others and have good interpersonal skills then you should be in with a great chance of being a facilitator in the new year. Applications close on 20th January 2014.

Want to know more?
If you would like to know whether your university has a Student Minds group, click here
If you would like to know more about getting involved/ volunteering with Student Minds, click here
If you would like to donate to Student Minds, click here
Want to know more about Student Minds in general? Click here
Student Minds Mission Statement