A RUSU officer- and former student of the university- orchestrated a welfare triumph this month as part of her goal to create a safe place for mental health discussion.
Gemma King- Welfare Officer for the Students’ Union -hosted a Mental Wellness Fayre coinciding with World Mental Health Day on Thursday, October 10.
The event was attended by students who visited stalls run by support groups and a workshop focusing on suicide prevention.
Commenting on her inspiration for the event, Gemma said: “I struggled with my mental health throughout my time at University and there were really difficult times.”
“I was also on the committee for the Open Mind society last year and we thought hosting this event would allow students to see what kind of help they need and give people a safe space to be open about their mental health.”
Throughout the day students could speak to representatives from organisations including the Samaritans, Sport in Mind and The Disability Advisory Service. There was also the opportunity to engage in tasks while reflecting on their own lifestyles.
Gemma said: “I think the wellbeing pledge board was really positive. It allowed students to reflect on their current wellbeing routine and pledge actions for improvement. My plan is to share these tips throughout the year.”
“The speaker we had was also really great. She spoke about the story of Jonny Benjamin who nearly took his own life on Waterloo Bridge before being talked down by a stranger.
“It was a really inspiring reminder to look out and always listen to each other.”
The last activity of the day- a workshop run by a member of the university’s Chaplaincy team, Mark Laynesmith- also gave valuable tips for improving daily wellbeing routines.
Lasting an hour, the session covered methods of relaxation and calming, the importance of creating a balanced routine, and how to support others experiencing anxiety.
Gemma- who took part in the Chaplaincy session herself- highlighted the importance of reaching out for help in sessions such as these or in one-to-one support meetings.
She said: “If you are struggling with your mood and feel like something is not right, please talk to someone; a friend, a GP, a member of the Welfare Team.”
“When I was at really low points my brain and thoughts felt like they were all tangled up. Talking to someone about it they can help you make sense of it all.”
And highlighting the ways that students can help each other during their time at university, Gemma added: “Check in with each-other every once in a while, be open and honest about how you are feeling (if you feel ready) as it might encourage others to feel comfortable talking about what they are going through.”
Gemma- who can empathise with those struggling with student life- also said: “I think the biggest challenge is balancing a social life with Uni work and for some people balancing a part time job too.”
“It is so important to remember to take time out for yourself, whether that be to read a book, watch a film or bake a cake. Doing something you enjoy can make such a difference.”
Gemma’s wellness fayre was the first step in delivering her #1in4 (You’re Not Alone) campaign which is running throughout the year.
And with much more on the agenda, she said: “I am planning to start a podcast to discuss wellbeing tips and different topics surrounding mental health.
“I am also in the midst of creating my welfare directory which aims to signpost students to welfare support that suits them, whether that be on or off campus.”
For more information, head to rusu.co.uk/1in4 or like Gemma’s Facebook page ‘Gemma King- RUSU Welfare Officer’ to receive alerts about her work all year round.