How do you feel when you’re asked how you feel? University Mental Health Day (UMHD) is this week – a national initiative on Thursday 7 March to focus attention on mental health: on the importance of good mental health and on the challenges – for all of us – of mental ill-health.
Deborah Harry, our Chief Finance and Planning Officer, is the University’s mental health champion, and she has filmed a video about her role as mental health champion. The marketing team have undertaken interviews with students about their experience of mental health and how they have managed these and been supported – these will be available this week.
Over the last two or three years, everyone who works or studies in higher education has become increasingly aware of the challenges posed by mental ill-health and distress. There are intense pressures on students, in preparation to enter an ever-more competitive employment market, as a result of economic, social and cultural pressures. There’s good evidence that ambient mobile technologies – the ubiquity of the text, the email and social media – add to these pressures. I am delighted we are working closely with the Students’ Union to make further strides in our offer to students who need mental health support. Much the same applies to staff wellbeing. We have invested significantly at Hallam in student and staff mental health support and services, and I am proud of the investment we have made. The wellbeing of our community – of staff and students – is very important to us and it’s important that we establish a community in which all can thrive, and, as important, all can find the help they need when they need it. We can always do more, and at Hallam we look very hard at the ways in which staff and students make use of the resources we provide, at the way that demand is changing, and we try to respond quickly to changing need. I’m delighted that as a university we have committed to the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, to change how we think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported. In any one year, a quarter of us will experience conditions like anxiety, depression and stress. Mental ill-health isn’t something which happens to others: it happens to many of us.
This week’s UMHD is an opportunity to do several things. Perhaps the most important, for each of us, is an opportunity to step back and think about our own wellbeing. The resources on the UMHD site can be used by everyone, and it’s always good to take time out to reflect on how we are each feeling, and how our colleagues and neighbours are feeling. There’s strong evidence that stepping back and reflecting can be helpful, and that communities – workplaces, neighbourhoods, universities – in which people look out for each other and take an interest in how others are feeling, are better places to live and work for everyone. The resources are also a good way to think about the sources of support which are available. As anyone who has experienced serious distress knows, it can take you by surprise. You never quite know when you are going to need help. Understanding what is available, and how to access it, is time well-spent. There will be stands at City and Collegiate campuses on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week from 12-2pm where we will have information about the support services available for mental health and wellbeing within the University. There will be communications through our social media channels and a ‘take over’ of the plasma screens on campus.
This is also an opportunity to celebrate the things which go towards making this university a diverse, vibrant community. SHU Fest takes place this week – an opportunity to understand better the talents and resources around us. International Women’s Day takes place on Friday. Diverse communities are stronger, healthier communities.
Universities are bustling, busy communities, with often hidden sources of stress and pressure. Universities UK has led a sector-wide approach to improving mental health and wellbeing and I am delighted this university is fully engaged with UUK’s ‘step change’ campaign: working together across the University to make it a healthy community for all will be very powerful. How you feel when you’re asked how you feel is a good barometer of the organisation’s overall approach to supporting everyone’s mental wellbeing.