In this joint post, Professor Cassie Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) and Richard Brooks, Director of Human Resources, reflect on University Mental Health Day.
This year’s University Mental Health Day focuses on the theme of ‘No student should ever feel alone with their mental health’. As co-leads of the Student Minds University Mental Health Charter here at Bath, we have been leading regular project meetings with colleagues and SU representatives to not only plan for our submission for the Charter but, more importantly, reflect on where the challenges and gaps are and what changes we can make over the coming months and years to make a real difference to the mental health of our community. It has also recognised lots of amazing work already happening across the university by staff and students. The Charter has a whole community approach to mental health and, upon reflection, the theme for the day could more appropriately be amended to ‘No one should ever feel alone with their mental health’.
We are all aware of the national mental health crisis and that we are all likely to struggle with mental health difficulties at some point in our lives. During the pandemic these challenges have been exacerbated for many people. It feels right therefore to emphasise the need to openly talk about the difficulties we sometimes face with mental health and encourage us all, as a community, to ensure no one feels alone when facing these challenges.
Everybody manages their wellbeing and mental health in different ways. For some, it might be regular exercise or meeting up with a friend to talk, or simply taking some time out to listen to music or engage in an activity they enjoy. For others, it could involve speaking to a therapist or attending a support group.
Richard reflected on the challenges of the early days of COVID:
“I know that I found the whole switch from working amongst people, to sitting alone in the spare bedroom with a small screen very difficult. My wife’s suggestion was that I might start talking to a counsellor, and I (bravely I thought) took that step. We meet for about an hour in late afternoon about once every six weeks, and I consider it a form of ‘mental health maintenance’. We talk about work, and non-work topics. Not only is it a safe place, but we have built up an understanding over time which has really helped me find a balance when times get tough. For someone who doesn’t naturally open up to friends, it’s been a real eye-opener, and something I should have done years ago.”
Cassie reflected on conversations with students over the past two years:
“I have been so impressed with the resilience shown by our students during what has been an incredibly difficult period, but not surprisingly there have been a number of issues that have regularly been raised in discussions. These have included isolation/loneliness, lack of social interaction and ability to build relationships, anxiety around ability and worth (imposter syndrome) and challenges with a lack of structure that ‘normal’ university life brings. The results of the recent Be Well Survey (which is undertaken jointly by the Students’ Union and the University) reflect many of these conversations and we will be using this data to take relevant actions alongside using it to inform our work on the Charter.”
We are proud that the University of Bath is an early adopter of the Mental Health Charter and are looking to apply for the award over the next year. As our work on the Charter builds, we are moving into a stage of wider stakeholder engagement with the whole community, both students and staff. If you would be interested in contributing to the discussions or attending a focus group, please do sign up using this form and we will be in touch.
Finally, we want to encourage everyone to take some time this University Mental Health Day to reflect on their mental health and wellbeing. This could mean making a small change to your daily routine, reaching out to friends or colleagues, or taking a first step to accessing support or advice. There are many ways that we can all ensure that none of us ever feel alone with our mental health.
The University provides a range of tools, resources, and initiatives to help support you, which can all be easily accessed through our webpages: