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We all have mental health

Rosie Tressler

Chief Executive
Student Minds

Today is World Mental Health Day. This year, the theme is Psychological First Aid: training in basic support for people who are distressed, including knowing what not to say and when to refer to clinical services.

But World Mental Health Day also provides us with the chance to think about why student mental health matters and how universities should be responding not just to the challenges of ill health but also the opportunities of wellbeing.

Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity. Our work gives students the knowledge, confidence and skills to look after their own mental health and support others. Currently we work with over 100 universities to support a range of student-led peer support groups, anti-stigma campaigns and workshops to equip students to support friends. The experience has taught us how important it is to develop creative and collaborative solutions to the student mental health crisis.

Most importantly, we are learning that universities should take a strategic approach to wellbeing, providing support to those experiencing difficulties but also opportunities for students and staff to develop their own wellbeing. This needs a whole-institution approach that listens to students (Student Minds, Grand Challenges 2014) as well as incorporating the experiences of a range of staff. As a university accommodation cleaner recently told us: 'to students we're almost like a second mum'. This is a model that embeds mental health and wellbeing across university activities, from residences, sports and volunteering to work placements and the acquisition of skills; from teaching and learning to research and academic careers.

That's why we are pleased to be part of work led by Universities UK to champion this model in the higher education sector. Student Minds will be bringing student experience and the voice of student leaders into this partnership programme via a student forum as well as identifying, sharing and implementing good practice.

For World Mental Health Day, you could join Mental Health First Aid England's call to #Take10Together today, or speak with a colleague or a student to share your experiences (see our suggestions for starting a conversation in our Look After Your Mate guide for friends) or be inspired by students and graduates discussing 'Why is it important to talk about student mental health?' 

Or you could simply reflect on how we all have mental health, whether that means a history of clinical illness or feeling less motivated or happy. All of us will see our mental health fluctuate during our education or work, and all of us can keep learning about how to build our wellbeing.

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