University Mental Health and Wellbeing Awareness

Good evening and happy Valentine’s Day! Has anyone else celebrated by having a lovely date with themselves at home, sleeping, gorging on pancakes in front of Netflix and listening to “Single Ladies” on YouTube? As I thought. Only the cool people.

There is also another annual event happening next week, and no, I don’t mean pancake day. No, I mean the little known University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day on Wednesday 18th February. As a regular Demon contributor, I have written a number of special needs themed features for the website, and what better way to raise awareness? As follows:

Mental health. We all have it, it’s all around us. Some know plenty about it, others don’t. Some don’t know how to talk about it while others fear judgement of their own mental health. Which is why this week, universities across the country will be taking different steps towards raising awareness.

Everyone’s heard of depression, bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anorexia and many more conditions. Of course we have, awareness is increasing all the time. But it can be hard for anyone in good mental health to grasp the reality and the nature of mental illnesses. I’m guilty; even writing about it is helping me learn more! Think about how many left-handers you know. According to statistics, you may know as many lefties as mental illness sufferers.

Approximately one in ten people in the UK have experienced some form of anxiety related problem. These include panic attacks, phobias and OCD. Panic attacks cause very frightening physical symptoms that can make a person feel suffocated and overwhelmed. Phobias can become so strong they can prevent a sufferer from living an everyday life just from the fear of encountering whatever they are afraid of. OCD is caused by an attempt to reduce anxiety through rigid, repetitive behaviours and thinking patterns.

Then there is depression. It can be hard to distinguish between a sufferer simply being difficult and them really struggling to battle inner despair. The key to this? Be rational, compassionate and open-minded when interacting with them. Cut them a little slack if it helps them, and keep any criticism objective and sensitive. Getting the balance right could mean the difference between stopping the person from spiralling into irrationality and saying the exact things that could push them in that direction.

Eating disorders affect one in 20 young people in their teens and twenties – ten times more girls than boys. Like OCD, these disorders cause people to become stuck in repetitive, unhealthy attitudes towards food. Binge eaters may resort to it for comfort to help mask underlying emotional problems. Anorexics may see their diet as the only part of their life they can control, and will eat as little as possible no matter how much they love food. Worst case scenario, the body will run out of carbohydrates and fats, before eating away at the non-essential proteins and finally the essential proteins. This leads to organ failure and death – a painful way to go, indeed.

The aim of University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day is to promote awareness for all mental illnesses battled by staff and students alike. At DMU, there will be a chance to wear knitted friendship bracelets to represent your willingness to raise mental health awareness. You can also take a poll on whether you would be willing to speak up about your own mental health. If you’re not at DMU, what is your university doing? As I haven’t struggled with mental illness myself, I feel hesitant to end with any advice. But I do know one thing that applies to any life struggles. Whatever your situation, there is always hope.

For the original version, go to: