Guest post by Kieran Patel, Co-President, Student Minds Cardiff on Student Minds and what they do at Cardiff University …
Student Minds Cardiff work closely with the Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team at the Student Support Centre, 50 Park Place and Cardigan House. Together they aim to support students by offering a range of easily accessible services and events …
Who are Student Minds Cardiff?
- Student Minds is a UK based charity who aim to encourage peer intervention in changing the state of mental health amongst the student population.
- Student Minds Cardiff (SM Cardiff) is the branch of Student Minds that is based at Cardiff University.
Our two central aims
- Raising awareness of mental health and mental health problems that exist within the student community.
- Running peer led self-help groups to support students experiencing problems with their eating.
Mental health and mental health problems in the student community
In 2013, research conducted by the National Union of Students (NUS) reported 20% of respondents considered themselves to have a mental health problem and a staggering 92% of respondents identified as having had feelings of mental distress.
I am not surprised by this statistic at all. I believe that the University environment can be very conducive to the development of mental health problems for the following reasons:
- With the probability that 1 in 4 people in the UK will have experienced a mental health problem at some point in their life, it’s not surprising that there will be a proportion of students entering university with existing mental health problems. This change of environment and loss of a familiar support system can often exacerbate symptoms, and cause episodes of poor mental health.
- Secondly, university can be considered unique in the way that people are transported from their existing social groups at home, to a completely new environment. Here they must make new friends and relationships, and learn to live alone. Managing these social pressures and the disciplines of independent living can often pose threats to mental health. The fear of peer judgement, the fear of feeling incapable of self-dependency and the fear of isolation can all be precursors to mental health problems such as depression and eating disorders.
- Finally, university will present some of the most intense periods of study that we will encounter. This is not surprising considering that for many of us; it will be the final hurdle in our academic journey. Exam pressure and feelings of being overwhelmed by the workload can make students susceptible to stress-induced mental health problems.
SM Cardiff Mental Health Events and #EDAW15
One of our tasks at SM Cardiff is to make students aware of the existence of these mental health problems, and to encourage people to recognise the importance of looking out for our own and our peer’s mental wellbeing.
The range of different events we run was highlighted in national Eating Disorders Awareness Week. With the prevalence of eating disorders being so particularly high in young people, we at SM Cardiff dedicate a whole week of awareness to it. The events we ran this year at ‘#EDAW15’ focussed on both informing the minds of students about eating disorders, as well as providing students the opportunity to relax their minds, away from the stressors of Uni life.
In terms of informing the minds, one of the highlights was a presentation given by the Service for High Risk Eating Disorders (SHED) team. A detailed overview of Eating disorders was provided by Dr Menna Jones, and she was accompanied by one of her service users who gave an astonishing insight into the personal experience of experiencing an eating disorder. An overall fantastic talk, made all the more credible from the dual-perspectives.
To relax the minds of students we firstly organised a mixed dodgeball tournament . Run alongside Cardiff University Student Support, the fun and enjoyment was clear to see. With one aspect of this year’s agendas being to get more males involved in discussing mental health, it was a real positive to see so many males in attendance. On the Thursday, our week of events culminated in our Gig night which exhibited the many talented music acts that we have here at Cardiff University.
A great week of awareness, which was a pleasure to be involved in. It will hopefully mean that many more students are now better informed on mental health and eating disorders, and are more aware of the services available to them.
The Service we offer – Eating Disorder Support Groups
Our events are also opportunity to advertise the services that we are able to offer students – specifically our Eating Disorder Support Groups.
- Eating Disorder Support Groups run weekly from the Student’s Union and aim to encourage groups of students who are experiencing problems with their eating to engage in discussion with each other. Hopefully by sharing their problems and concerns, students feel less isolated and can share useful ideas amongst the group. Also present are two trained members of our SM Cardiff team who can ensure that conversation remains safe, can propose topics of discussion, and can signpost towards other support services that are available.
Come and see us
Being a peer-led service, students often find us less intimidating than more formal support services, and attendees often report how useful they find speaking to other students who may be experiencing similar difficulties. We also make it our business to educate ourselves as much as possible on the other support services available at the University, so that we can make attendees aware of all the other available options. We are aware that the amount and type of support that someone wants is completely individual, so making them aware of the other options allows people to seek the support that suits them.
Kieran Patel, Co-President, Student Minds Cardiff
Guest post on behalf of Counselling Health and Wellbeing
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