Mental health in universities #MHAW16

MENTAL HEALTH IN HIGHER EDUCATIONI work in a university – the same university where I studied my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The same university where I was first diagnosed with mental illness, and the same university which has supported me ever since my diagnosis. I am incredibly grateful to work where I do, and to work with such incredible individuals. While I was a student the support I received through the Student Services mental health and wellbeing team was fantastic – the Mental Health Adviser within Student Services was able to organise practical support that enabled me to manage my mental health around my studies, as well as contact my GP and Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) when I was in crisis. Most importantly I had a space to express my concerns about dealing with mental health while at university – something which I never realised I needed, and something that I am whole-heartedly grateful for.

Now I work full-time at my university and I have been overwhelmed by the number of students that contacted me in relation to mental health. Having used the university’s counselling and mental health team myself I have been able to guide students in the direction of support, as well as signposting them to charities and organisations such as Student MindsStudents Against Depression and Young Minds. While my job role doesn’t directly focus on mental health I certainly spend a great amount of time supporting students – or working on mental health projects. I do however know my limits, and I know when and where to go if I feel unable to support a student – Student Services and our Students’ Union are fantastic in working alongside me to ensure that we offer the best possible support for students. However, I do wonder how this works in other institutions – recently The Guardian published a series of articles focusing on the ‘mental health crisis’ currently encompassing higher education – which considers the mental health of both students and academics.

Having dealt with ongoing mental illness both as a student and now as a member of staff within my institution I feel comfortable and confident in the support I have received. And I feel comfortable and confident in encouraging students to use our support services – I have access to my own support networks – but I wonder, does more need to be done to protect the mental health of staff within higher education? And I don’t just mean academics, I mean support staff. Not all staff are like me – I have a fantastic support network, and most importantly – I feel comfortable and able to speak openly and honestly about my mental health, but for others this may not be the case.

We have fantastic charities and networks such as Student Minds and UMHAN – but do we need a mental health organisation for higher education staff? I definitely think it’s something worth considering.

 

I studied and now work at Birmingham City University – from the 16-22nd May we have been supporting Mental Health Awareness Week, raising awareness through activities led by Birmingham City Students’ Union.  (Views expressed here are my own and not those of the organisations mentioned).

Find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 over on the Mental Health Foundation’s website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. Nice article. I’ve just experienced the opposite result here in New Zealand, where mental health care is usually excellent. The university counsellors promised the earth and delivered nothing. Which as most people know is a disaster for ones mental state, where you need the mental health provider to be consistant. This made my current situation worse, although I have managesd to get myself in the community health. I’m you’ve had a much better experience. I also had a poor experience in the UK too at the University of Salford, maybe I’m the common denominator.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I highly doubt you’re the common denominator! I know there’s been a lot of press recently about how mental health issues are on the rise in higher education, it’s seem like I am one of the fortunate ones who has access to a fantastic team. It seems more needs to be done both in the UK and further afield to meet the demand! One thing that has been tricky has been making the shift from being a student to a staff member where the support is slightly different – but thankfully my previous team have still be in contact and I am so so grateful!!

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      • I guess my situation is relatively unique, as I’m a 44 yerar old pharmacy student. In NZ there aren’t as many mature students. They just seemed ill equiped to deal with someone who has long standing issues, even in as much as referring on to a suitable provider. They seem more content dealing with day to day stresses; exam stress, relationship issue etc. It has now made catching up with my studies practically impossible.

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      • Have you told them this? I always found it useful to have support from the university, but I know some people prefer to try and keep things separate – though of course I know this can be tricky!! (Very tricky!)

        Liked by 1 person

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