On the occasion of University Mental Health Day 2017, Emma Wilson discusses the importance of awareness of mental health issues, particularly among students, and the need for peer support. 

One in four adults are said to have a mental health problem at any one time. Within the student population, a study conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 78% of students reported having had a mental health problem in the past year, with 33% encountering suicidal thoughts.

This is set against the background of an NHS plagued by financial pressures and a marked increase in demand for university counselling services. With services stretched to such a degree, it is essential that each of us find healthy ways to manage our own mental health and wellbeing.

We can also do little things for those around us. Seemingly inconsequential acts of kindness can be the difference between a person having a good or bad day. From a text message letting someone know that you are thinking of them, to inviting a friend over for coffee, fostering a culture of openness through conversation is the first step in creating a society that is not afraid to talk about our feelings.

If you have noticed that a classmate has been absent from several classes, or perhaps they have seemed to be unusually quiet, take it as an opportunity to reach out and say hello. It is important to remember that you don’t have to be a mental health professional to be a good listener. You don’t need all the answers to their problems. A listening ear is sometimes all that is needed for someone who has been battling their inner demons alone.

Given the pressures and demands of studying at university, it is understandable that your mental health may struggle. Seeking help is not a weakness; it is an act of strength to stop and say “hey, I’m really not doing too good right now. I need a bit of help”.

How do I know this? I have been that student. I have experience of mental health problems. But through seeking help from friends, my GP and LSE’s wellbeing services, I was able to get through my MSc and am now working full-time as a graduate intern at LSE. I am not ashamed to say that I needed help, and it has made me a healthier, stronger person as a result.

On Thursday 2 March 2017University Mental Health Day 2017 will be taking place at universities across the UK. Organised by Student Minds, this is a great opportunity for key players to organise and reach a wider audience by raising awareness about mental health on campuses across the UK. This year’s theme is Active Mental Health and aims to highlight the importance of the relationship between mental and physical wellbeing. From taking a walk around many of London’s parks, to joining a gym or taking the stairs rather than a lift at university, there are lots of little ways to improve your overall wellbeing.

So this University Mental Health Day, consider your own mental health and wellbeing. Take some time to do the activities you enjoy. Go for that walk around the park. We all have mental health; just as we all have physical health.

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Note:

  • About the author: Emma Wilson is an alumna of LSE with a background in mental health research, policy and communications. She is currently working as Research and Evaluation Graduate Intern within the Learning Technology and Innovation team at LSE. Her main areas of interest are the mental health of children and young people, and the impact of the digital world in today’s society. The topic of her Masters thesis focused on the role of technology in the design and delivery of supporting young people with anxiety and/or depression. Emma can be found on Twitter (@MindfulEm), where she actively promotes news stories that address matters of health, education and digital policy.
  • Image source: LSE in Pictures