It was a great pleasure to chair the World Mental Health Day session at Cardiff University on 10 October 2018.
We had incredible engagement from staff and students with a diverse group of over 60 participants. Cardiff signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge that aims to challenge how we think and act when it comes to mental health, and break the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health issues can face.
Over one in four people are said to have experienced mental health issues at some point in their lifetime. The audience were asked to voluntarily stand up if they had ever experienced mental health problems, and an overwhelming majority did – far beyond the reported one in four. It was a remarkable moment that showed how we often only see what is in front of us, and that none of us really know what the people around us have or are experiencing within.
Diana De talked about our understanding of culture and diversity and the role that plays in an individual’s needs around mental health. Josh Lewis highlighted how mental health issues are high within the LGBT+ community, and how healthcare provision plays a significant role with often inadequate support adding to their mental health burden.
Extending from the #LetsShare campaign, two staff members and two students shared their personal experiences around mental health. It was extremely moving to hear their truly open and honest accounts of what had been very challenging times within their lifetimes.
I took home some key messages:
- To be there for each other. To listen without judgement.
- The smallest of gestures can make the biggest differences.
- It will get better.
- Sometimes you cannot just pull yourself through. Even when everything on the outside seems ideal, if inside it is not, you need space and time for you.
- Medication can help counter the chemical changes ongoing within your brain.
- Not being able to sleep and the endless nights can be one of the most difficult barriers to overcome.
- Hearing yourself laugh again, can be a great light.
- Having humour when you look back. It can be a coping mechanism to help come to terms with some of your most difficult times.
- Recognising the importance of your environment. If you put the most resilient of people in a difficult environment, it will be hard for them to thrive. Conversely if you have an individual who feels fragile in a nurturing environment, they can grow and flourish.
- Self-love, self-care, time and space. Find the things that help you.
- Be kind to yourself.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the audience, the speakers and Julie Bugden who organised this event. This was a wonderful safe supportive space. There was no judgement felt and no stigma.
To be part of this session felt like a huge breakthrough in tackling the stigma of mental health and standing up and speaking out so that we can all be there to support each other.