The Tab interview UoB Student Minds
If you’re experiencing mental health problems, remember you’re not alone
Mental Health has become somewhat of a taboo subject. With University being the first step into adulthood many students suffer from mental health problems.
The Tab spoke to UoB Student Minds committee about how they want this to change.
It was recently World Mental Health Day, how important is it for us to talk about mental health?
It is very important for us to talk about mental health. By talking about mental health with our friends and family, and engaging society in general with conversations around mental health and illness, we are able to break down perceived barriers to treatment, dispel the misconceptions which generate stigma and – perhaps most importantly – provide help and support to those in need.
Time to Change campaign is a good example of this; they have done great work to facilitate people talking openly about their experiences and have used these experiences to help change how people think and act about mental health through dispelling the myths which surround mental health problems and promoting the important messages, like the fact recovery is possible.
Why is there such a stigma regarding mental health?
A lot of stigma stems from fear, uncertainty and misunderstanding. This is particularly true of ‘invisible illnesses’, both mental and physical (e.g. chronic pain disorders), which manifest with few, or no, physical symptoms. Their invisible nature often means people find it difficult to understand and make appropriate adjustments to support the individual with their illness.
Unfortunately, stigma is also perpetuated by the media which has a powerful influence that is often misused. Common misconceptions linked to mental health problems are reinforced through the use of terms such as “evil” and references to danger or violence.
According to Mental Health UK, by 2030 depression will be the leading illness globally, what can we do to try and prevent this?
There is lots we can do. For one, we need to be more mindful and look after ourselves.
Just as we are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day to keep our body’s healthy, there are things we can do to promote a healthy mind too. For example, becoming aware of triggers which cause you stress or upset, and developing a way to support yourself is so important.
Stress is a particular problem for many students but it is often forgotten that it can be detrimental for our mental health, along with the fact that there are steps we can take to manage stress – taking time to self-care, talking to our support networks, planning ahead and exercise (which is great for both our physical and mental well-being!)
What would you say to someone struggling with mental health problems?
Most importantly – you are not alone. Please don’t be ashamed, or afraid, to reach out for help; there are so many amazing organisations who are waiting to listen and support you. (Sane, Rethink Mental Illness, Mental Health Foundation, CALM, Time to Change, Samaritans…)
NB: If anyone is in a position where they want to be able to support a friend who is struggling but are unsure about how best to do this – Student Minds has a great online resource called ‘Look After Your Mate – Guide for Friends’. I would definitely recommend giving this a read for some helpful guidance.
Where can UoB students get help regarding mental health?
There’s lots of different services available to students, both at UoB and in the local community. At the university these include: Student Support Services (Mental Health Advisory Service and Counselling & Wellbeing Service); Birmingham Nightline; Student Mentor Scheme; Welfare and Personal Tutors.
You can also speak to your GP who may be able to advise of appropriate services in the community, such as Birmingham Healthy Minds and Forward Thinking Birmingham – who run a drop-in centre called Pause as part of their service.
There are many national helplines and support services which can be contacted too – Samaritans are one example, operating a 24 hour, 365 days a year service if you want to talk to someone in confidence.
If you are experiencing any mental health problems the University of Birmingham has a Counselling and Wellbeing support system that is worth a visit. Just remember you are not alone, and there are always people out there willing to listen to you and support you. Please Support Student Minds, and together we can help students with mental health problems.