University Mental Health Day events are taking place at over 100 universities on Thursday 2nd of March 2017 and the day will bring together all involved in the university. Both students and staff, to transform the state of student mental health. This national initiative will reach a wide audience and open up conversations about student mental health.
This year’s theme: Active Mental Health
We all have mental health and this will fluctuate day to day because mental health exists on a continuum. We can promote good wellbeing with small steps in our day to day life. Mental health, however, is a part of our broader physical health. In fact ‘Be Active’ is one of the five ways to wellbeing and keeping physically active is one way in which we can manage mental health.
Firstly, Open up and have conversations about the relationship between mental and physical wellbeing.
Secondly, Give students and staff a chance to organise social contact activities that are open to all. Encourage students to build supportive social networks through activity.
Thirdly, Encourage students to build supportive social networks through activity.
Fourthly, Inspire students to put steps into place to include activity in their lives to support their mental and physical health.
Finally, Increase awareness of support for those experiencing mental health difficulties that pose specific challenges around physical activity.
“University Mental Health Day provides a really good opportunity for staff, students and Student Unions to work together and promote mental health within HE settings. This enables collaboration and sends out a strong message about the importance of mental health promotion. The current theme of ‘Active Mental Health’ has connected well alongside other initiatives at our university. The campaign resources from Student Minds help staff at Universities to run events.”
“University Mental Health Day is a great opportunity for staff and students to work together to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, raise awareness and signpost individuals to support services. Educating staff and students on mental health is hugely important. It may help someone to recognise the early warning signs of a mental illness. Which in turn can lead to them seeking support much sooner.”
UMHAN Committee Member and Mental Health Adviser at Birmingham City University
University Mental Health Day was an initiative started by UMHAN (University Mental Health Advisers Network) in 2012 and is supported by Student Minds and members of the Alliance for Student-Led Wellbeing.
Why do we need to talk about student mental health?
Students are vulnerable to experiencing mental health difficulties:
Firstly, Nearly 50% of young people enter higher education. For many of them, these are the first years they will spend away from established networks of family support.
Secondly, Living independently at university and adjusting to the student lifestyle brings its own challenges. Many students struggle to maintain healthy day-to-day routines. Lack of sleep, poor diet, work pressures, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption are all risk factors for developing mental health difficulties.
Thirdly, In addition to these lifestyle factors, the years spent at university coincide with the peak age of onset for a range of mental health difficulties [RCPsych, 2011]. With 75% of all mental health difficulties developing by mid-20s.
Fourthly, The expansion in HE in recent decades means that today having a degree does not guarantee a student a job. So, students are experiencing more pressure to gain good honours degrees and develop skills through volunteering and participation in sports clubs and societies [RCPsych, 2011].
Finally, Early intervention is a necessary step to improve national mental health. Students with severe mental health difficulties are at ‘considerable risk’ of academic failure, [RCPsych, 2011]. Tackling mental health difficulties early in life will improve educational attainment, employment opportunities and physical health. Which consequentially increases economic productivity, social functioning and quality of life, [Student Minds, 2014]
Prevalence of mental health difficulties:
- Approximately 29% of students experience clinical levels of psychological distress, [Bewick et al., 2008]. This is associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance use and personality disorders [Dawson et al., 2005].
- Undergraduate students appear to have a lower sense of personal wellbeing than the rest of the population. There are 21% of students who experience ‘low anxiety’ compared to 41% of the total population and 43% of the equivalent age group, [The 2016 Student Academic Experience Survey, HEPI].
- Anxiety and depression are the most commonly experienced mental health difficulties in the student population. However, students may also experience mental health difficulties such as eating disorders, self-harm, OCD and bipolar disorder.