"We all need to get better at talking about mental health issues"
Anyone can suffer, nobody’s immune
All sorts of things than can affect someone’s mental health and wellbeing, or trigger a problem
That surprises some people. They assume that these kind of things are just something you’re born with, you know – it’s just part of your biological make-up. They assume that these kind of things are just something you’re born with, you know – it’s just part of your biological make-up.
Sometimes that is the case, of course, but it’s really important to realise it’s not the whole story. I see it every day in my job here in the Students’ Union. Financial pressures, red tape, problems with housing and accommodation, family pressure, workloads: these can and do create really serious issues.
And because anyone can encounter these factors, anyone can suffer the effects. Nobody’s immune.
We all need to get better at talking about mental health issues
It means that we all need to get better at talking about mental health issues. If someone you know seemed to be in difficulty or distress, would you know how to talk to them about it, how to even broach the subject, how to signpost them towards help? A lot of us wouldn’t. We might feel it’s not our place to mention it, that it’s too personal or might embarrass the other person, and so on. But in the end, that doesn’t help anybody.
That’s something we’re actively working on here in the Union, trying to develop policies that really reflect students' mental health and wellbeing needs. There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but there is help and there is support.
There’s no pressure on you, everything goes at your pace
And in that respect, the Wellbeing Service in the Student Guidance Centre is crucial. It’s there to listen to you and to help. It can provide counselling and arrange referrals. It can also liaise with your School or Department if you want. There’s no pressure on you, everything goes at your pace, you know? You decide.
I have a lived experience of mental health issues myself and before I started to work at the SU, I qualified as a Social Worker here at Queen’s. I think that combination – of personal knowledge and professional background – is certainly useful when it comes to understanding welfare issues. I’m not a counsellor, but of course, I know there’s always more we can do. I can see that. And in a way, every student who gets in touch with us is also helping us in SU, contributing to our understanding of what we need to do or how we condo things better.
So what I want people to take away from this is not to dismiss or diminish the effect difficult circumstances can have at a deeper level. Because once a material problem or set of circumstances – say, for example, a financial issue – is sorted out, the effects can linger. In a sense, the damage can already be done. So be aware of that, if you’re suffering for whatever reason, and know that there are resources here in the University ready to help.
Mental Health issues can affect anyone at any time. But confidential, professional help is available through the University.