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Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2022. This year we’re tackling loneliness and creating opportunities to focus on how we can achieve good mental health. According to the 2019 University Mental Health Charter, student loneliness is the strongest overall predictor of mental distress in the student population. In 2021, The Thriving Learners study found more than half of university students (57%) reported concealing a mental health problem for fear of stigmatisation.

Loneliness is a normal part of life, with most of us feeling lonely at some point and experiencing how it can make us feel. Throughout the pandemic, loneliness has been almost 3 times that of pre-pandemic levels making it an important topic to tackle this Mental Health Awareness Week. We chatted with some of the Advisors at the Union to offer practical steps to help you manage your mental health and deal with feelings of loneliness.
 

What are some practical steps to help combat loneliness?


It can be overwhelming to take steps forward when you’re feeling lonely, especially if you’ve been feeling that way for a long time and aren’t sure what to do. You don’t need to jump into lots of new activities or groups overnight - you can take things at your own pace. It can be so hard to establish new connections, routines, and friendships, and it takes time, so allowing yourself space and kindness as you try out something new is so important. Something not being the immediate right fit doesn’t mean you’ve failed or there’s anything wrong with you - it’s just not the choice for you. 
 

  • Join an online book club, take up a new hobby, or join a sports team or one of Strath Union’s societies. 
  • Take a social media break - seeing the social lives of people online can exacerbate feelings of loneliness but remember you may only be seeing someone’s curated highlights reel.
  • Bear in mind that being alone and feeling lonely are two separate things, so don’t be afraid to do things you enjoy by yourself as well as taking part in group activities. Doing things on your own like going to the cinema can seem scary at first if you haven’t done it before, but you might surprise yourself and enjoy not having to compromise on which film to see!
     

Remember that there will always be someone who can offer advice and support when you’re experiencing loneliness, whether that be someone you know or a service like Hear to Listen or Nightline. Confiding in someone to let them know that you’re feeling lonely can feel like a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders, as even your close friends or family might not realise you feel this way.

There’s also a big difference between feeling anxious (which is a normal part of being human and helps keep us alert, safe, and comfortable) and having an anxiety disorder. If you’re worried that feeling anxious is impacting your day to day life, affecting how you talk to people, and preventing you from giving something new a try, it might be worth speaking with a doctor or mental health professional who may be able to help support you in managing overwhelming feelings like that. 
 

What support is on offer to help students deal with loneliness?


There are lots of things you can try out to see what fits if you think you might need a little more direct support. None of us is identical so what works for one person might not work for you and that’s okay, and sometimes it takes a little time to figure out what we need. 
 

Peer Support

Sometimes the most useful thing for us is speaking to someone like us, whether it’s another student or someone who also struggles with feeling lonely. Although they are not professional support services, peer support projects can be a vital resource for anyone that just needs a space to be heard, not judged, and compassionately listened to for a little while. 

  • Hear to Listen is a peer support service by Strathclyde students for Strathclyde students, face to face in the Union or via Zoom. It offers a quiet, confidential place for a conversation or just a place to sit and chat and take part in some crafting and games! 
  • Glasgow Students’ Nightline operates Monday to Friday during term-time from 7 pm until 7 am, offering students a place to talk through the night by phone or instant message. 
  • Side by Side is an online community run by Mind to give people a place to “listen, share, and be heard” by peers and others experiencing loneliness.
     

Professional Support

If you’re thinking that things have gotten too overwhelming, you’re too anxious, or you’re not sure how to break through how you’re feeling, it might be worth reaching out to a professional who can help you navigate options. 

  • Disability and Wellbeing are a University service that offers a range of support for students, including 1:1 counselling, and online resources, group programmes, mental health assessments, and mentoring.

  • Your GP/doctor can talk to you about medical support if you think it might be helpful to explore medication. The Parade Group Practice and Townhead Medical Practice are both close to campus and register students that live near the University. 
     

What are some practical steps to help combat exam stress?


Frequent breaks away from your books or screen. Taking 10 minutes to grab a drink or to get some fresh air can provide clarity and improve your studying. We sometimes forget that taking care of ourselves is important during exams and doing things we enjoy alongside this can help reduce stress. If you tend to timetable out your study time, make sure that you actively schedule a time to relax and do something you enjoy, whether that’s exercise, playing a video game for an hour, or watching some Netflix. Being deliberate in this and making conscious decisions rather than just letting it happen accidentally can make it easier to build routines. 

Catastrophic thinking can be really common for students dealing with exam stress and thoughts like “I’m going to fail everything” or “I may as well drop out” are normal and can be anxiety-inducing and cause panic. Using a simple CBT evidence exercise (a good template for this is here) can be valuable for some in dealing with this:

  1. Write down what thought or feeling you are having.
  2. Break down the evidence (facts, not feelings or opinions!) that supports the thought or feeling and the evidence that disputes it.
  3. If you find it hard to do this (which is understandable - finding evidence that disputes our feelings can be really tough in particular!) and are comfortable doing so, ask a friend to work through this with you as they are often able to help you be more objective.
  4. Use the evidence to put together a more balanced and rationalised thought. Write this down and return to it regularly to help bring yourself back to a calm place. 

Find more info at Tips on preparing for exams - NHS 
 

What support is on offer to help students deal with exam stress?

  • Every exam period, the Library offers virtual study sessions for anyone that wants to log on remotely and study in a group setting with people to chat to occasionally and ask questions
  • The University’s Guide to Stress-Free Exams gives some hints and tips as well as guidance on how to submit Personal Circumstances if anything’s gone wrong or impacted your studies
  • Learner Development Services operate all year round to support students with all areas of study, from planning to referencing to effective exam preparation. They have loads of material online as well as offer 1:1 appointments
     

What support is on offer for student communities (LGBTIQ+ students, disabled students, international students, BAME students & any other groups) to help deal with loneliness?

Liberation Reps | Societies & Student groups


How can students be part of the conversation tackling loneliness during Mental Health Awareness Week?

If you feel comfortable sharing your experience of loneliness, get involved on social media to shatter the stigma around loneliness by using the hashtags #IveBeenThere and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.