October 10 marked World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated to the awareness, advocacy, and destigmatisation of mental health. In recent years, the stigma surrounding mental health has started to dissipate, as schools, universities, governments, and public figures have advocated for mental health awareness and support.
The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland released a statement announcing that 20 different Scottish universities and colleges have pledged to implement Student Mental Health Agreements (SMHAs).
“It is so encouraging to see a record number of colleges and universities sign up to create a Student Mental Health Agreement on their campus,” said Gemma Jones, Vice-President of NUS Scotland.
The SMHAs are part of an initiative by Think Positive, a NUS Scotland mental health project funded by the Scottish Government, to get university administrations and student associations to work together to help destigmatise mental health and provide resources for students to get help.
“SMHAs create a framework of guidance of support to enable more students to learn and participate fully within their institution,” Jones continued, “tackling the stigma attached to mental ill health and working toward improving the mental wellbeing of the student body.
“Students face huge pressures – and every day many juggle the need to work, put food on their plate and keep a roof over their head with the demands of their studies. It’s crucial the colleges, universities, the Scottish Government and other key partners continue work to reduce stigma, highlight support and improve services.”
At the University of Edinburgh, it appears that mental health of students is a priority for both the university administration and the Student’s Association.
“The health and wellbeing of our students is of the utmost priority,” said a university spokesperson. “In recognition of this, we have more than doubled the budget of our Counselling Service over the last decade, with a further £150,000 being added this year alone.
“We are also investing £8 million in the creation of a new Student Wellbeing Centre. As well as increased investment in frontline services, we have stepped up efforts to promote our facilities and raise awareness of mental health issues on campus.”
In addition, the university partners with the Students’ Association on events promoting mental health throughout the year, including Mental Health and Wellbeing Week, running from 12-16 November this year.
“The Students’ Association works hard to help students find ways to take care of their mental health and wellbeing, and to reduce the stigma in asking for help,” said Students’ Association Vice-President Welfare Kai O’Doherty.
The emphasis on mental health and the resources offered by the university and Students’ Association appear to be resonating and helping many. A student told The Student, “I genuinely think it’s so good that the uni has told us that there’s such a thing as too much work. As someone who struggles with anxiety and feeling like doing well enough/working hard enough, knowing that the uni doesn’t expect to kill ourselves studying is so important to me.”
Another student discussed how the university has helped them with their mental health: “I suffered for a few years with a really bad anxiety disorder, I was worried uni was going to make it come back because I didn’t have my usual support network, like family. The facilities available are amazing and the student support makes me feel like I never have to go through anything on my own.”
Image: Ted Eytman via Flickr