25 February 2017
When I applied to Sheffield Hallam University, one of my aims was to find a society that I could get involved with to encourage the development of my social skills and to prevent a repeat occurrence of my previous experiences of university life. I scrolled through the seemingly endless list of societies available on the Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union page, but there was nothing that particularly captured my attention, or that I felt was suited to my interests. Deep down, I knew what I was looking for and could not help but feel disheartened that unlike most other universities I had looked at, Sheffield Hallam did not have a mental health awareness society. Having built up the confidence and taking big steps in raising awareness of mental illness and eating disorders off my own back, I was looking for an opportunity to meet other students and be part of a bigger network of individuals that all had the same passion!
As my unconditional offer came through for my course, I can remember browsing through the ‘Start a Society’ page on the Students’ Union website- initially through curiosity, but undoubtedly it planted the seed.
Fresher’s Week came around, along with the societies fair. As I paced around the Students’ Union it would be fair to say that a lot more of the societies seemed more appealing and for many of them I displayed an interest- for example, the Fell Walking Society. However, seeing the fair, the engagement of students and the sense of support amongst groups, it made me think a little harder about the prospect of starting my own mental health awareness society.
Assignments started, volunteering opportunities arose and timetables became more demanding. Leading up to the Christmas ‘break’ I found myself with limited time to fit in all of the activities I wanted to take part in- as well as trying to focus on maintaining and stabilising my own mental and physical health. There was so much more that I wanted to do with the Students’ Union and the university, but time was just not on my side. However, over the Christmas period I had time to think. I have a passion, I want to make a difference and I want to help other people. Starting a society encompasses everything that I want to achieve during my time at university- volunteering, supporting others, fundraising, meeting new people and developing my skills. If there is not already a mental health awareness society at Sheffield Hallam, what is to stop me from starting one?
Returning back to university in January I started more thorough research and proposed the idea to a few of my friends. The notion seemed daunting and I could not help but have a lack of self-confidence about what I was about to do, but that all changed. I realised I was not going to be doing this on my own and that I would have support every step of the way. This development is going to be a huge learning experience and I do not expect it all to go as smooth as I would like, but you have to give these things a try!
As the progression of the society proposal became more real, I started to think about the idea of a committee- the group of people that were going to come together and do this project as one big team. I could not ask for a better scenario. The team of people making this happen are also my closest friends here at Hallam. Amy, Amber and Frances have been amazing in supporting this idea and I absolutely cannot wait to formulate this project with them- as a team. Also, a huge and special thank you to Jared for designing an incredible logo for the society!
I have to say though, the staff members at Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union are absolutely fantastic (even though I probably seriously get on their nerves!), but they have been amazing in giving me the boost I need to push this idea forward. Most of you reading this will know that I do not like to do things by half, and I think it would be fair to say that the staff at the union have come to realise this- question after question, email after email! They have been so patient and supportive and I cannot wait to grow this society with their help and knowledge.
So after weeks and months of dreaming, planning and applying, the SHSU Mental Health Society is finally an official society within Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union! With it being near the end of the semester, we have not had the opportunity to plan too much, as we originally did not anticipate launching until the next academic year! However, mental health awareness needs to be raised at every opportunity and we are not going to wait until September to do that.
With it being Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017 next week- 27th February-5th March- and University Mental Health Day on Thursday 2nd March, we will be doing a few things to raise awareness and supporting the efforts of the Students’ Union.
On Wednesday 1st March we will be at Coffee Union in the HUBS where we will be free for you to come over and find out more about us, look at some of the support resources we have or just have a chat- we would love to see you!
We will also be supporting the ‘Sock It to Eating Disorders’ campaign on Friday 3rd March by being active on social media, and of course, rocking our silly socks! It would be great to see so many people getting involved!
Personally, I cannot believe that this dream has actually come to life. I am absolutely thrilled to be starting this new venture and I hope that the society can grow and develop into something that the Students’ Union will be proud of and that it will have a positive impact on the lives of all students at Sheffield Hallam.
You can find out more about SHSU Mental Health Society on the Students’ Union website: https://www.hallamstudentsunion.com/soc/11641/
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2 February 2017
If anybody follows me on social media, they may have noticed that this week I have appeared as though I am on some kind of mental health awareness rampage. Well, I have, but for good reason. Today is Time to Talk Day 2017, a campaign initiated by Time to Talk- an organisation aiming to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and prevent discrimination that occurs towards those with mental health problems.
Throughout the week I have uploaded a new blog post, shared the overwhelming amount of views my blog has had and invited people to read an article that I have had published in Your Voice magazine. Although some people may be tired of my attempts to share my story, I do it all in good faith. I want people to see that talking about mental health problems is something that should not be feared! It happens to the majority of us- 1 in 4 people in fact. Next time you are in a room full of people, just keep that statistic in mind. You may well be sat next to somebody that could just do with a chat, without the fear of being judged, labelled or discriminated. But how can people have the courage to do this when they are constantly surrounded by comments and remarks that undermine the severity of mental health problems. I know from personal experience that when I first uploaded that status on Facebook detailing that I was in hospital suffering with Anorexia Nervosa, I was absolutely petrified. Would my friends still want to speak to me? Will anybody understand? Will my life ever be normal? But it was these questions that spurred me on to tell everybody. It pained me to think of other people in the same situation that I was, thinking exactly the same questions and quite possibly causing their condition to deteriorate even more. I knew at that moment that I wanted to try and make a change- no matter how small that was.
This is why I could not be more passionate about the Time to Talk Day campaign. We need to have conversations. We need to reassure those suffering that there are people around them that want to help. We need to reduce the attitude of the public about mental health problems. It should not be up to this campaign to give people validation that on this one day it is ok to open up about their suffering; it should be ok 24/7, 365 days a year (366 in a leap year!).
Send a text to a friend that you have not spoken to in a while. Ring somebody and arrange to meet up for a coffee. Go on a walk with a group of friends. Smile at somebody. Anything. You never know the impact that you will have on that person, but you may well have just made a fundamental difference to their day.
‘Making one person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world.’
For more information about Time to Talk Day 2017, visit: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/