By Simran Sahiba Kaur Takhi
According to a survey by YouGov, British universities are currently seeing more than a quarter of students reporting mental health issues, with this time of year often being particularly difficult for some students.
Universities have a social responsibility to nurture the well-being of their students and Manchester Met’s It’s OK campaign aims to do just that.
Led by Community Officer Lilly Smith and Amie Atkinson, Vice President of the Student Union at the Cheshire campus, the campaign encourages groups of students to get together, partake in fun activities and provides safe spaces in which they can talk about their mental health.
The campaign uses the context of a group to act as a therapeutic vehicle, facilitating safe spaces for students to start conversations about mental health in the comfort of their own union. Past activities have included making positivity Advent Calendars packed with motivational messages, and promoting self-care.
The campaign also has goals extending beyond regular meet ups, in order to implement systemic changes in relation to well-being services on campus. Past success stories include recruiting extra counsellors, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) specialists and mental health and well-being mentors.
One of the campaign’s goals is to provide an opportunity for students to partake in ‘Look After Your Mate’ training, which is part of a wider campaign by the UK wide mental health charity Student Minds.
The training will provide guidance on simple ways in which students can provide support and comfort to friends who may be in distress.
Amie said: “It’s not so you know how to become a counsellor to your friend; it’s for you to know the right thing to say, or even to be comfortable in saying ‘That sounds really difficult, do you want to talk about it?'”
It’s OK champions the provision of better mental health services and safe spaces for students whilst also taking inspiration from a wider campaigning arm. Whether you’re in need of an empathetic ear, a break from your study schedule or are finding the holiday season a little overwhelming, keep an eye out for upcoming campaign activities at the Manchester Met Student Union Facebook page.
If you feel you need a listening ear during the holidays, or at any time, you can also contact the Union Advice Centre or the Manchester Met Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service.