An introduction from the CUSU/GU Welfare Officer:
Mental Health Awareness is a strange topic at the best of times: what does it mean to be “aware” of mental health? Am I meant to be aware of my own, or other people’s? Surely awareness should be the bare minimum at all times, not just for one week, and we should be fighting for access to treatment, support, and for structural changes that would materially improve lives. However much we become “aware” of mental health as an issue, unless we take action, neither our own nor our collective circumstances will really change. That being said, taking time to think about how mental health impacts our lives, about who is disproportionately affected and who is able to access support, and about how the communities we are part of prioritise mental health, is valuable.
This is particularly the case in the current environment: with most of us confined to our houses during national lockdown we face a new set of mental health challenges, and for those key workers who can’t stay at home, the importance of proper mental health support is becoming more and more pressing. For those with existing mental health issues, pandemic-induced lockdown may have exacerbated or re-awoken past problems, and made accessing support more difficult. We know that the number of people seeking help from domestic violence helplines has increased during lockdown, and that those who suffer from domestic abuse often have mental health issues too. We also know that BME communities are most impacted by the virus due to embedded social inequality, and that BME students historically have found it difficult to be diagnosed or to get proper support for mental health for the same reasons. The effects of this pandemic will be unequal as well as far-reaching.
Lockdown has also forced many of us to be alone with our thoughts, with our main distractions being an increasingly grim news cycle. I know my mental health has suffered from not being able to do all of the things I would usually to deal with a stressful situation. I miss my friends and family, I miss my life, I want a hug! I think it’s more important than ever that we take time to fully recognise ourselves and our needs: to think about how we can best learn to take care of ourselves and those around us, rather than concentrating on productivity or work ethic. This Mental Health Awareness Week, try to take the time you need to show yourself what care looks like.
We’re all having to find new ways to cope, new ways to grieve, and new ways to heal. Zoom feels cold, it tires me out and hurts my eyes, but messenger doesn’t let me see the faces of the people I love. Phone calls are nice but I wish I could give the person at the other end of the line a reassuring shoulder pat. We’re all starved of touch, but perhaps this is the time to really register its importance: touch, presence, intimacy, none of these are apolitical. Even before this crisis, it was certain types of intimacy that were celebrated, certain people who had the ability to spend time with loved ones. This week, and in the coming months, I hope that we learn to draw strength from community even at a distance, practice collective care, and resolve that there will be no “business as usual” when we come out of lockdown – instead we’ll fight to make things better, for everyone.
An introduction from the Students’ Union Advice Service:
The Students’ Unions’ Advice Service (SUAS) provides confidential, impartial and independent advice to all students at Cambridge, undergraduate and graduate from any College. In the current climate, SUAS has adapted well to the ‘new normal’ ensuring that we remain accessible to our service-users as well as providing the same level of service. Similar to most other services in the University and Colleges, we have moved our work online, with appointments available over the phone, online (Zoom, Teams or Skype), or via email. Although we are no longer able to meet students face to face, which we all miss, students can expect to be warmly welcomed by all members of our friendly and approachable team. As generalist advisers, we complement other more specialised University service providers such as the Counselling Service or the Disability Resource Centre which deal with more specific issues such as mental health and disabilities. While we may not be trained therapists or counselors, we are here for all students who might just need a listening ear in a non-judgmental and confidential space.
Mental Health Awareness Week Events & Activities
- Download the Big White Wall app for free 24/7 mental health support. Find out more here: https://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/bww/big-white-wall
- Follow the CUSU & GU welfare and rights officer in Stella’s Instagram Takeover all this week: https://www.instagram.com/cusuonline
- Take a break and get creative in our digital #mentalhealthawarenessweek journal: https://www.facebook.com/events/656648198398625/
- Check out the University’s Midday Meditation Live sessions: https://www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/easter-2020-online/midday-meditation-live
- Show your support for Mental Health Awareness Week using our Facebook frame
- Read up on the Graduate Union’s OCD Awareness campaign
- Join Stella and the CUSU BME Campaign for Mental Health Forum: https://www.facebook.com/events/3543802022300658/
- Chat to one of the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service team via telephone, Skype or Zoom: https://www.studentadvice.cam.ac.uk/