10 Ways To Get Involved…

1. Train to run a group or course:

Eating Disorder Support Groups: our eating disorder groups provide support and encouragement to students with eating disorders. The groups maintain a positive, pro-recovery focus and offer a confidential space to talk about life, university and whatever helps you keep your life on track.

Positive Minds Course: a six-week course for students with mild depression, covering topics such as building a support network, establishing healthy routines and exploring different relaxation techniques.

Supporting Supporters Course: a two-part workshop for those supporting a friend or family member with an eating disorder.

If you would like to set up a support programme on your campus, take a look at our website here.

Training

2. Campaign for change:

Lobby on a cause you’re passionate about and have your voice heard! We support a network of student-led campaign societies at 25 universities across the UK. Take a look at our website to find your nearest group. We offer training and support to all of our campaign groups – here are some clips from this year’s Student Minds campaign training! See below for further information for three upcoming campaigns which you might like to get involved in…

Look After Your Mate: We are developing an interactive online resource to encourage and support students to look out for their friends, covering everything from approaching difficult conversations to self-care. To ensure the campaign is focused on students’ experiences we need your stories! Tell us about how you have looked after a mate, or how a mate has looked out for you: you can share your story or find out about submitting a video blog here.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: To mark EDAW 2014 we will be publishing a report on the effect of university transitions on access to eating disorder treatment and support. Following on from this, we will be launching a national campaign to call for integrated support for university students both at home and at university. More information coming soon!

Love Your Body: We want to get people talking about the things they love about their bodies, so why not start a conversation with your friends, share the campaign on Twitter or download our ‘love your body’ poster to start your own campaign on campus.

Love Your Body

3. Become a mentor:

Do you have experience that our volunteers could benefit from? Whether this is running a support group, campaigning or leading a team, it is always helpful for our volunteers to have support in developing their skills, problem solving and running a great project. See here to find out more about becoming a mentor for Student Minds.

4. Come along to our conference

We will be holding our fourth annual conference on 7th & 8th March – join us to find out more about the key challenges facing student mental health today. For more info and to register, see here.

5. Run an event or fundraiser:

Take a look at our fundraising pack, which includes lots of tips and advice on running a successful event.

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6. Join our blogging team

Take a look through our blog for articles on university life and mental health. If you would be interested in joining our blogging team, go to our website for more information on how to get involved.

7. Send us your recipes:

Student Minds runs ‘The Kitchen’ recipe blog to provide quick & easy recipes for students and to support individuals in recovery from an eating disorder. We’d love your contributions to the project!

Body Gossip

8. Run your own Body Gossip On Tour event:

Body Gossip challenges common perceptions of body image, promoting the recognition and acceptance of natural bodies. Find out more about taking part in the project here.

9. Stay in the loop:

Sign up to our mailing list and join in the conversation on social media: follow us on Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn.

10. Start a conversation about mental health:

Take a look at this article on having the confidence to talk.

Managing Anxiety

~ Lauren Gasser 

Anxiety, in any of its innumerable forms, is a challenging and overwhelming emotion; one that ignites without warning and often grows in intensity if you do not tackle it directly. Anxiety can feel as though it is stealing from you – stealing your social life, stealing your sleep, stealing life’s pleasures, and it is easy to feel as though you have lost control. No matter how overpowering this feeling becomes, it is important to remember that you DO have control; you have control over your actions and your choices, which can directly impact upon anxiety and eventually quench it entirely. It is also important to recall the now clichéd phrase, ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, because the realization that you can still walk, and talk, and pretty much do anything even WITH anxiety is one of the biggest steps towards overcoming it. It may not be easy to ‘accept’ ones fears and find ways to live with them, but remember how much you have to gain. Yes, you have to be brave, but we’re all capable of that.

Counselling is a great way of working through the causes of your anxiety, and creating a personal action plan can help you overcome your fears in small, manageable steps. Here are a couple of top tips for commonly anxiety-provoking situations:

Panic Attacks: The chemical cause of these frightening episodes is the ‘fight or flight’ response, during which the brain releases adrenalin in order to keep us safe. A primitive neurological feature (designed to protect us from saber-tooth tigers and the like), it is unfortunately rather misplaced in the modern mind and leads to hyperventilating, sweating, dizziness, tingling extremities, and of course an intense feeling of fear.

Breathing Techniques: Panic attacks manifest themselves in various ways, but the great news is that they can be managed, with increasing ease, when you realise that they are simply a result of breathing in too much oxygen. The old paper-bag trick is a bit obvious if you’re on the bus, so a useful technique is to visualise a brick (two long sides, two short) and to focus your breath around this shape, breathing out along the longer lines, and in along the short. It might be difficult at first, especially as panic attacks often feel as though you can’t breathe, but if you concentrate on making your out-breaths longer than your in-breaths, the feeling will pass much more quickly. Moreover, the mantra ‘this will pass’ can be comforting while you are getting to grips with your breath.

Social Anxiety: The idea of entering a room full of people might make you feel incredibly anxious, but there are ways to make the experience a little easier. It’s a good idea to tackle social anxiety in stages, by creating a list of situations that you can tick off one by one, starting with the easiest. Start really easy: invite one other person for coffee, or sit next to someone in the common room and start a conversation. A small group dinner might be the next step, or a cinema trip, but increasing the fear-factor slowly will help to make the process less overwhelming.

Group Interaction: Attending events with like-minded people can also be useful, for example a college club or society meeting in an area that you have some knowledge or interest. Remember, sometimes the loudest and most outwardly confident people are covering up nervousness or insecurity, so there is nothing wrong with being quiet and actively listening to others (in fact, this is a fantastic skill which many extroverts lack!) The breathing technique described above can also help if you feel you are becoming overwhelmed. Even if you are feeling very nervous on the inside, the people around you don’t know that. You can still walk around, talk to people and laugh at jokes whilst feeling anxious. The distinction lies between feeling the emotion and experiencing it – knowing it is there, but not allowing it to dictate your actions. The more we ‘do’ while feeling anxious, the less powerful the anxiety becomes, and the quicker it will dissolve completely. In fact, you may well find yourself forgetting the anxiety is there and having a good time!

What do you do for your mental health?

Here are some of our top tips…

  1. Get plenty of sleep (most people need around 7-9 hours). Take a look here for some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Go for a walk in the fresh air or do some relaxing yoga – it’s a great way to lift your mood!
  3. Write in a journal or chat to a friend about how you are feeling. If you’re worried about a friend, start a conversation – your understanding could be just what they need.
  4. Eat well – see here for lots of quick & easy recipe ideas for students.
  5. Meet up with friends or join a club. Take a look at your Student Union website for information on all of the clubs and societies on your campus.
  6. Volunteering is a good opportunity to meet new friends whilst learning new skills – visit your university volunteering centre to discover opportunities on campus and in the local community. You can find out about different ways to get involved with Student Minds here.
  7. Take time for yourself to relax and unwind: have a bath, meditate or sit down with a hot drink and a good book. Take a look at the ‘Be Mindful’ website for information on meditation and free online courses.
  8. Why not plan a short visit home halfway through term? Home comforts and the opportunity to see old friends can really help to leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
  9. Take a look here for some tips on managing your workload and studying effectively. Try working in bite-size chunks and take regular breaks.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Problems with money, housing, relationships and studying are all common causes of worry, but universities have support services that are there to help you. Don’t forget to register with your local GP and make the most of support services on campus. To find out more about the Student Minds peer support programmes, take a look at our website here.

Spotlight on Cardiff’s Wellbeing Service

Laura King, Intern to Cardiff University Counselling & Wellbeing Services, tells us how they engage with students throughout the year…

This academic year has been a busy one for the Cardiff University Counselling Service & Wellbeing Division. Aside from the day-to-day counselling sessions, workshops and running of the service there have been a number of successful changes made, along with many brilliant events. In September the Student Support Centre welcomed a Mental Health Nurse, whose involvement with the University is part of a two-year pilot project aimed at supporting students with severe and enduring mental health problems. The Mental Health Nurse liaises with the Community Mental Health Team in order to best support students with complex needs, on matters such as psychiatric referrals for example.

It is widely accepted that students may face a greater and differing number of mental health problems compared to the general population. This could be due to the fact that the age range of most students encompasses the age of onset for most mental health disorders, along with the sheer amount of change and upheaval experienced through moving away from home and starting a new course. University also lacks the structure and stability of life at home, which can contribute to problems with mental health, as life at Uni can feel out of control. Late nights, drinking and pressure from deadlines and exams can all contribute to a lack of self-care that can exacerbate pre-existing problems, or simply cause unhealthy stress levels.

Previous NUS studies have found that more than a quarter of students who experience mental health problems do not seek help, and only 1 in 10 access University counselling services. This is unfortunate, as when mental health problems in anyone are spotted early with appropriate treatment and support being put into place, recovery rates are dramatically increased. This is where it is particularly important for support services in higher education to make their services as open and as approachable to students as possible, so that more students utilise them. At Cardiff University, the Counselling and Wellbeing Service has been doing everything possible to ensure that this is the case, so that as many students as possible who need support receive it.

Two of the main events the Counselling Service has taken part in this year to ensure their presence around campus and to inform students of their presence are Mind Your Head Week and National Stress Awareness Day.  Mind Your Head week ran from 7th-11th October across the University. It aimed to increase awareness of mental health issues and hoped to provide students with access to resources and support to enable them to beat homesickness and feel more settled. The Counselling Service held a Catch up with Cake evening on the 7th of October in the Service, to increase familiarity with the building and to give students a way to meet each other in an alcohol-free environment. The Service also held a stall in the Students’ Union to raise awareness of the kind of support available whilst engaging and informing more students. The Wellbeing Team have planned a number of outreach drop in sessions in libraries and even laundrettes (wash and unwind!) to catch students who may need help but find coming into the service intimidating.

In conjunction with the University libraries, the Counselling Service took part in National Stress Awareness Day on the 6th of November. The Service held mini meditation and relaxation workshops in two libraries along with information stalls encouraging students to ‘just ask’ if they had any questions, based on the notion that knowledge and support reduces stress.

In February the Service welcomed the Student Wellbeing Team to the Counselling Service & Wellbeing Division. The Team aims to provide practical wellbeing tips and advice, offering wellbeing drop-in sessions (both face-to-face and online), brief interventions and a variety of workshops.

Charity Feature: Body Gossip On Tour

Body Gossip

~ Charlotte Gatherer, Body Gossip On Tour

Body Gossip challenges common perceptions of body image, promoting the recognition and acceptance of natural bodies. We encourage people to think more about their bodies so in the future they will worry about them less. Body Gossip on Tour follows the same philosophy as the central campaign but takes it into university settings offering students a platform to share their body stories. The writing competition gathers a truthful picture of how individuals within the university view their body; these stories are then recited by actors in a performance. The campaign engages students in many ways as writers, actors and audience members.

Body Gossip on Tour events give students the opportunity to reflect on their life and values whilst being more open about their experiences. It empowers students to make positive changes in their life and gives new insights into the issues and stigmas surrounding body image.

The first Body Gossip on Tour event was held in Bath in 2011 and since then students from across the country have engaged in this essential campaign.

To find out more, go to www.bodygossip.org/what-we-do/body-gossip-tour.

Charity Feature: Papyrus

Papyrus

PAPYRUS is the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young suicides in the UK and one of the ways in which they do so is by operating a national helpline known as HOPELineUK.

HOPELineUK is run by trained suicide prevention advisors who take calls from anyone concerned about a young person (under 35) or a young suicidal person themselves. Sometimes this young person is a student at university, struggling with their workload, making friends, or adjusting to living on their own and more. Our HOPELineUK advisors can help you identify the support your university can offer and encourage you to ask for it. HOPELineUK also gives university staff advice about how to help the students they support.

All HOPELineUK staff are trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills which means we can help you put a safe plan in place for yourself or a young person you are concerned about.

HOPELineUK understands that a life at university isn’t easy, and fully supports University Mental Health Day to raise awareness of this.

Contact HOPELineUK by phone – 0800 068 4141, SMS – 07786 209 697, or email – Pat@papyrus-uk.org between Monday – Friday 10am-5pm and 7pm-10pm, Weekends 2pm-5pm.

For more information about PAPYRUS Prevention of young suicide go to http://www.papyrus-uk.org.

Charity Feature: Students Against Depression

~ Richard Keen, Students Against Depression

SAD Logo

Happy University Mental Health & Wellbeing Day! With hundreds of awareness raising and wellbeing events occurring across the UK, we thought this would be an excellent moment to welcome you to Students Against Depression!

We’re an award winning, student led movement gathering real life experiences alongside validated self-help resources to tackle stress, low mood and depression. We believe that the real life experience of students and those who support them is vital in shaping resources that genuinely tackle the problems students face.

So, why offer self-help resources? Though there’s no one-stop fix to depression, there are practical steps we can take to tackle it: starting now. Our site has a diverse range of blogs, self-help ideas and options for support all available online to browse. We do not replace professional services: we’re an exciting addition to them, hoping to ensure quality support and resources are freely available to all.

Understand depression, get support and share your story: Students Against Depression is powered by the work of students themselves, fuelled by the energy of volunteer website developers, graphics designers, campaigners and many more around the UK. We’re proud to be working closely with Students Hubs, Nightline and the wonderful Student Minds to advance the cause of student mental health.

There are countless ways for you to join us in the cause. Visit www.studentsagainstdepression.org, support one of our heroic fundraisers such as Judith (who’s running the London Marathon this April!), or follow us on Twitter @SADwebsite.

Together, we can tackle depression.