Mental Health Awareness week

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Today marks the first day of the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week for 2022, an annual event where there is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. The theme of the week this year is loneliness.

Loneliness is the negative feeling we have when there is a mismatch between the relationships we want and the ones we have, both in terms of quality and quantity. Loneliness is feeling alone, not being alone.

As a student, it is likely that you will be experiences many life changes, including starting university, making new friends, moving away from home for the first time, and so many other changes too. Experiencing changes and making life decisions can have an impact on our sense of belonging, and a perceived lack of belonging can be linked to an increased feeling of loneliness.

Loneliness is very closely linked to mental health, and can be a cause and an effect of poor mental health. If we feel lonely, it might lead to poor mental health, and if our mental health is poor, it can lead to feelings of loneliness.

So what can we do to tackle loneliness?

The Mental Health Foundation’s Unlocking Loneliness Campaign highlights 15 things to do if you’re feeling lonely, including:

Explore your feelings

Think about how you are feeling and what could be contributing to this. It can be useful to keep a journal and note down what you have (or haven’t) been doing, and how you are feeling. By better understanding what makes us feel- the way we feel, we can do more to learn what works for us and protect our mental health.

Be aware of social media

Remember to take social media with a pinch of salt. People tend to post the positive aspects of their lives. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have negative experiences and may be feeling lonely too. If social media is having a negative impact on your mental health, or making you feel lonely, why not try unfollowing or muting the accounts that bring up those difficult feelings, and start following accounts that make you feel empowered

Find your tribe

Finding people with similar interests you can relate to can help you feel more connected. University clubs and societies are a great place to start, UWE MOVE, Centre for Music and Student Life are brilliant places to meet new people too. There are also sites like Meetup specifically designed to help you find people with similar interests. Give a go and see!

Find balance

The increased workload at university can make it easy to neglect looking after yourself and making time for the things and the people that you care about. Being disconnected from these things can increase your feelings of loneliness, so remember to schedule in time for you and the things you enjoy too.

How can you get involved in Mental Health Awareness week?

On social media, we are encouraging you to share your experiences of loneliness using the hashtag #IveBeenThere to support others and raise awareness.

If you’re looking for a challenge, sign up to the Mental Health Foundation’s 80 Miles in May Challenge, to walk, run or jog the distance over the month, to raise funds and awareness for the Mental Health Foundation.

Resources to support your mental health

Check out our Tackling loneliness webpage or the Student Guide to Loneliness, for lots of advice, tips and information about how to support yourself, as well as organisations that are there to listen to and support you.

The NHS also have extensive expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your own wellbeing, on their Every Mind Matters webpage.

If you need someone to listen

The Mix – whether you want a quick chat or more focused help, text THEMIX to 85258

Shout – if you are struggling to cope and need to talk, day or night, text SHOUT to 85258

Student Space – for one-to-one student support for whatever challenges you are facing, text STUDENT to 85258

Samaritans – whatever you are going through, you can call Samaritans anytime. Call free on 116 123

University Mental Health day

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by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity team

Following the events of Feel Good February, we’re continuing the promote the importance of practising self-care and managing your mental wellbeing with University Mental Health Day on Thursday 3 March, founded by Student Minds and the University Mental Health Advisors Network.

Learning more about mental health

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England , with 1 in 6 people reporting a common mental health problem in any given week .

These include, but are not limited to: anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While they are not mental health diagnoses, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm are also related to mental health.

Supporting your mental health

Professional services

Whether you’re living with a condition, know, or are supporting someone who is, it’s important that you seek out daily and long-term support. UWE Bristol are proud to feature a range of professional health and wellbeing services to support you, that include out of hours support and are also partnered with local organisations such as Off the Record and Bristol Mental Health, endeavouring to provide you with an extensive range of care.

Exercise

Exercise is also a great way to raise endorphins and the free MOVE programme at the Centre for Sport, offers over 40 activities for you to engage in, including: dance, hiking, mediation, Tai Chi, and yoga. If you require quiet and self-reflection, there are sanctuary spaces across all campuses and the Student Centre based on Frenchay Campus, is also home to the out of-hours team on the first floor. If you require pastoral support, 2OCT003 based in The Octagon is a 5-minute walk from there.

Diet

Diet can also impact mental wellbeing and the University strives to offer a range of nutritious food and drink outlets on all campuses that accommodate dietary requirements including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free and are open to any recommendations to diversify their options.

There are also Hydration stations located throughout each of the campuses to encourage you to work towards drinking 1.5 to 2.3 litres of water a day, as recommended by the NHS. Water has many benefits, including improved focus, boosting your immune system, and mood maintenance, so you could also combine a short walk to a station in another building and get some fresh air to maintain those endorphins.

How to get involved in University Mental Health day

Get involved by inspiring conversations, taking action, and creating change through hosting an event, signposting a friend to the available resources or sharing your experience on social media using #UniMentalHealthDay.

No one should ever feel alone with their mental health, so we encourage you to engage with the links embedded within this post or to speak with your personal tutor for further support.

Tackling loneliness

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Loneliness is something that everyone feels at some point in their lives and each of our experiences are individual to us. To find out more about loneliness and what can cause and contribute to it, take a look at Mind’s website.

We’ve pulled together some information on how to build connections and meet others. We hope you find this useful and remember, you can always reach out for support if you need help.

To find out how to access any wellbeing support you need, visit our wellbeing support information.

Tips to help with loneliness

Watch this short video from Mind for tips to help you with loneliness. 

Connect with others at UWE Bristol

University events

Take part in UWE Bristol events. The University hosts a wide range of activities throughout the year, from Feel Good to workshops and socials.

MOVE

This year MOVE membership, usually £40, is FREE! There are over 40 activities to get involved in – from football and hiking to Zumba and yoga – and it’s a great way to get active and meet new people!

The Centre for Music

The Centre for Music is open for members. Join them for music software tutorials, music lessons or music masterclass events. It’s free to become a member and it’s a great way to learn new skills and meet new people.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to meet others, all whilst doing something great that makes you feel good. You can take part as little or as often as you like, and you’ll meet people whilst helping your community.

Connect with others through The Students’ Union

Events

The Students’ Union at UWE host a range of events to keep you connected to fellow students.

Societies

Get involved with The Students’ Union at UWE societies – it’s a great way to meet like-minded people who share your interests, learn new skills and most importantly, have fun!

The Discord networking platform

Join the Discord networking platform to meet and chat to other UWE Bristol Students online.

Hallslife

If you live on campus, HallsLife is here to help you feel at home at UWE Bristol. Throughout the year they organise events and competitions that you can get involved with. This is a great way to meet others living in halls accommodation.

Connect with others in the community

Meetup

Meetup is a great way to meet other people in your local area (events and group sessions are currently online). Browse groups by interest (like health and wellness, film, technology) or search for groups near you. Millions of people use Meetup and there should always be likeminded people nearby.

Time outdoors

Time outdoors provides a list of activity clubs in your local area, such as walking, running, climbing and cycling groups.

FriendMatch

FriendMatch works like a dating site, but matches people up with new friends rather than dates. Meet new friends near you, or connect with others around the world. There is a small fee of £4 per month to use the site.

Do It

Volunteering is another good way to meet other people. Search opportunities near you using Do It, the national database of volunteering.

Find support in the community

Befriending

Sign up for an informal weekly phone chat with Changes Bristol Befriending Service. Befrienders are trained volunteers who are happy to listen to you speak about how you’re feeling, what challenges you’re facing and how you’re coping.

Student Space

Student Space offer free, confidential, one-to-one support by text, webchat, phone and email. They’re there to help with whatever challenge your facing whether it’s loneliness, mental health, studies, money, relationships or isolation.

Mind’s online community

It’s a powerful thing to connect with someone else over shared experiences. Side by Side is an online community where you can listen, share and be heard.


How I settled into University life

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by Salma, BSc(Hons) Architecture

I’ll never forget my first trip to get groceries. I had just arrived in Bristol and as I was heading to Lidl, I may or may not have walked into random strangers’ backyards trying to get there. It was also my first-time using Google Maps and my, what an invention!

People who don’t see the need to use maps and rely solely on signs scare me.

Luckily as I got to know my flatmates, we started going grocery shopping together. Soon, what seemed like an hour-long walk felt like nothing. It started out with a simple text in our group chat that went something like, “I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow, would any of you like to join me?” It’s very normal for the first few weeks, or sometimes even the first couple of months to be awkward, but these little walks to Asda or Lidl really helped me get to know my housemates better.

Cooking with flatmates

In my first year at UWE I lived in Wallscourt with fellow international students and one thing I learnt from living with people from different cultures is that offering to try your food is the best way to make a friend. You also get to try theirs the next time, so it is a win. Living in a multicultural house also gave me the opportunity to celebrate things like Eid, Diwali, and Chinese new year’s. These were also opportunities to cook together, share a meal and educate one another about our cultures. It is a gradual process.

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps. One of my favourite recipes to make for my flatmates was these quick and easy cinnamon rolls .

Eating well

Before coming to university, the closest I got to ‘cooking’ was ramen noodles. But now I’ve learned some recipes from my flatmates, I’ve come to really enjoy cooking!

There’s something about having your own stuff, which has it’s own place in the kitchen that also makes cooking much more appealing. And when you’re in charge of your own food, it’s much easier to make healthier changes to your diet that you’ve always dreamt of. I switched to brown bread, gradually reduced my sugar intake and switched to plant-based milk cutting down my dairy intake. This did wonders for my skin and if my skin is happy, I’m happy!

Joining a society

During my first year, I joined the BAME society and the Built Environment society. I wanted to join societies that catered to both my social identity and my academic side. Joining these societies helped me get used to university life, as I met students from other years who’d had more experience and could give me advice. Although covid restrictions limited my interaction with other people, joining a society and meeting my course mates during the campus workshops, allowed me to make those all important connections and build my own community.

Mindfulness and meditation

During the lockdown last December, I decided to stay in university accommodation so I spent the Christmas holidays mostly in my room and with my flatmates. We would hold movie nights and bond over some popcorn and crisps.

Day to day though, I like to keep a routine and it’s important for me that I start my day by dedicating an hour or two to myself. I normally start by having toast with coffee/tea and then read a portion of a book and then watch some vlogs and cooking videos on YouTube. I also try to reserve 20 minutes before going to bed to meditate and I’m an avid believer of spiritual healing through prayer.

It’s important to remember that there will always be days when everything gets overwhelming and it’s not easy to stay focused no matter what you do. On such days, I just let myself feel the feelings and remember that it’s ok to have a good cry if needed.

For more advice on how to settle in and start your year well visit the Feel Good webpage!

Disclosing a mental health problem

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by the Wellbeing Service

For some people, the transition to university can be made more daunting by the thought of being surrounded by new people who don’t understand our difficulties.

Opening up

Telling people about your mental health is a personal choice and you should never feel like you have to. However, it can mean that new people around you better understand your experiences, needs and behaviours and can support you more effectively.

Telling people does not have to be ‘all or nothing’ – you can choose who you tell and what you tell them and you only need to share what is relevant. For example, you may want your flatmate to know you get really anxious around new people and ask that they let you know if they’re having people over.

If you choose to tell people about your mental health, be aware that this may be the first time they are hearing about these kind of difficulties. Letting them know where they can access accurate information is really helpful in their understanding. Mind have a great website with particular information for friends and family.

A helping hand

The University’s Wellbeing Service can support you to tell staff and friends about your difficulties if you feel it would be helpful for them to understand what you are experiencing. This could be on-going difficulties or a specific set of circumstances. This would be collaborative and is never done without your consent.

Dealing with diagnosis

If you have a formal diagnosis, our Disability Service can support you with telling relevant people in the university about your needs. They can work with you to prepare what’s called an Impact Statement which informs academic staff about your difficulties and how these affect your studies – for example letting lecturers know you may need to leave for breaks if you become too anxious. The service can also support you to arrange ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make your study experience as accessible as possible.

Access support

If you’re finding it difficult to disclose your mental health difficulties, remember that you can speak to someone at the Wellbeing Service for support. To arrange an appointment, contact us on 0117 32 86268 or email.

How to build emotional resilience

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Life is not without its challenges – but you can navigate through them. Here are our tips on how to build on your resilience.

  1. Build self-empowerment. Learn about yourself! What motivates you? What are your goals?
  2. Build your support network. We all need help sometimes, it’s important to know when and who to ask for help. You can also strengthen this network by supporting others when they need it.
  3. Learn from you past. We can’t be perfect, but make sure you learn from mistakes and use it to keep building on self-empowerment and support so you can be more resilient next time.

How to deal with an unhelpful emotional reaction

When we hear about a challenging situation, like an assignment being due, we can act on instinct and have an emotional reaction which isn’t always helpful. Here are a few examples of negative thoughts which might cause the unhelpful reaction:

  • “I did badly last time, so I’ll do badly again”
  • “I can’t do this”
  • “I’ve never done this before”

All these thoughts can lessen your resilience but are normal. The key to start dealing with these situations is to be C A L M.

Calm down

The key to start dealing with these situations is to be calm, as it will allow you to think more clearly. Here are some examples you might want to try to help calm down:

  • Let time pass
  • Meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Use an app such as SAM app or Calm
  • Exercise or go for a walk
  • Speak to friends or family
  • Write in a journal
  • Listen to music

Ask questions

Once you have calmed down and can think properly, question your reasons for the unhelpful reaction. Ask yourself:

What’s going on here? And why am I feeling like this?

Learn

Knowing why you reacted unhelpfully can help you to learn the cause(s) of the issue.

Manage

Work out how you might be able to improve your situation and lessen the impact of the negative thoughts.

  • What can you do yourself?
  • What might you need support with?

We have a range of self-help resources available online as well as one to one appointments for individual support with the Wellbeing Service. You can book these over the phone on 0117 32 86268 or by email.

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