Five common myths about mental health

Mental health is still seen as a very ‘taboo’ subject all over the globe. It can be hard for people to comprehend the idea of mental health problems without having experienced it themselves, and this can often lead to stigma and the concept that if you can’t see the illness, it doesn’t exist.

Whilst there is tolerance in the world about mental health, there are also quite a few myths that have popped up about it. We take a look at the top five below as suggested by Rethink Mental Illness.

1. There are reasons behind your mental health problems

Although some problems with mental health can triggered by a particular event, this is not always the case. Some instances of mental health will have no obvious cause and it can be because of physical factors, such as genetic make-up or traumas to the brain.

2. Having depression is the same as feeling sad

When someone says they are feeling depressed, it’ll sometimes be them trying to express that they are feeling sad. What some people won’t realise is that being sad and being depressed are two very different things. Everyone has ups and downs in their life but being depressed can affect your ability to do simple daily tasks such as making a cup of tea.

3. Only adults experience real mental health problems

Some will say that children and young people are too young to experience any real sense of mental health issues and it will often be mistaken for them being attention-seeking or overreacting about things. According to Rethink Mental Illness, as many as one in ten children and young people will experience mental health issues which are genuine.

4. Only weak people get mental health problems

Time to Change suggest that one in four of us will experience some form of mental health problem in our lifetime. Regardless of whether you’re particularly strong-minded or confident, mental health issues can affect anyone at any time.

5. Mental illness is an excuse for being lazy

It is very common for an individual to assume that people with mental illnesses are lazy. If you are being affected by your mental health, it will make you more lethargic and it will be harder to get out of bed in the morning. It can also affect your ability to go to work.

With mental illnesses being invisible, it can be incredibly difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced it to assume that people with a mental health issue have all of the above. If we can change just one attitude towards mental health, and eliminate these myths, we would have made a massive difference.

To read more about common myths and other facts about mental health, you can check out the Rethink Mental Illness and Time to Change websites.

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NEWS: Online mental health support service announced for the University of Essex

Students will be provided with a safe space to discuss their mental health thanks to a brand new online platform, Chat with Charlie.

Chat with Charlie is being funded by donations made to the Charlie Watkins Foundation, set up in memory of Charlie who tragically took his life in March 2017 when he was just 22. It will initially be available for students at the University of Essex, but it is hoped it will also be introduced at the University of York, where Charlie was a student, and other universities across the country.

Harry Watkins, Charlie’s twin brother, who set up the Charlie Watkins Foundation in 2017 to raise awareness for those suffering from mental health difficulties, said: “There is a growing problem in the UK, which is the lack of counselling support for those who need it.

“This is why the CWF, along with Mid and North East Essex Mind, believe in making a change. We hope Chat with Charlie will be introduced in universities across the country.

“The idea is to create an online portal for students who may be struggling with their mental health. They will be able to log into a chat room to talk with a trained volunteer who can then determine what support they would benefit from.

“This will, therefore, provide a support network for students who may currently be unaware of what their university provides. This in turn will help to destroy the stigma surrounding mental health.”

He went on to say: “Our JustGiving page has had an outstanding response and we are thrilled to see the donations being put into the Chat with Charlie service.

“After Charlie’s death, it became clear to us that there is a lack of awareness when it comes to mental health in young people, especially young men. But more importantly, there is a lack of timely support and service provision. We hope that Chat with Charlie will help young people at the University of Essex seek the help they need and are able to quickly find the support that’s right for them.”

The service will operate between 5pm and 10pm every evening and will provide students with confidential advice and support for any mental health or emotional wellbeing problems they are facing.

Mid and North East Essex Mind in partnership with the Charlie Watkins Foundation have designed the service which will be run for their Colchester base by a team of trained staff and volunteers.

Stephanie Mills, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Mid and North East Essex Mind, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the Charlie Watkins Foundation to establish the Chat with Charlie service for the University of Essex.

“It is so important that students at university feel they have someone to talk to about their wellbeing. Factors such as being away from home and exam stress can be hard, and we hope this service can help those who may be finding it tough.”

The University of Essex already offer a wide range of services for their students including a student services hub as well as an online mental health programme.

Angela Jones, Head of Student Support at the University of Essex, said: “Students at our University benefit from a wide range of support. We always seek to find new ways to improve opportunities for them to talk about their mental health and Chat with Charlie is a very welcome addition to our existing services. We are excited to be working with the Charlie Watkins Foundation.”

Read more about the Chat with Charlie service here: https://www.cwfoundation.co.uk/projects

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Uni Mental Health Day 2018 – five things to look out for if you think your housemate is struggling

University can be a hard time for any student. It is probably their first time away from home, and usually they will be living with complete strangers. Couple this with the stress of coursework and you could have a recipe for loneliness, confusion, desperation and despair. If you’re worried about your housemate, here are five things you should look out for:

  1. Have they given up their interests? Perhaps your housemate used to play a lot of sport before coming to university, they could have even signed up to a university club, but they don’t seem to care much about it anymore.

  2. Has their sleeping pattern changed? Your normally active housemate is now generally fatigued throughout the day and restless at night.

  3. Are they eating more/less? You’ve noticed that your housemate seems to either be eating way more than usual, or not eating much at all.

  4. Are they more irritable? Your housemate could be more snappy than usual and getting worked up about seemingly minor things.

  5. Have they increased ‘risky’ behaviour? Your housemate could be drinking more heavily or putting themselves in dangerous situations which they previously would not have done.

It is important to remember that the above can be a part of normal life in small doses. But if you notice that your housemate has been doing these more days than not for a period of two weeks or longer, they might be struggling with their mental health.

What can you do?

You have a couple of options if you think your housemate is struggling.

The first option is to approach them yourself if you feel comfortable to. If you do this, you need to have empathy, and you need to avoid taking their behaviour as a personal attack on you. Use wording such as: “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down lately, I just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you if you want to talk.” Avoid saying things like: “What’s wrong with you?”

If you’re housemate is open to talking, it might be useful to have resources to hand such as counselling services, or options the university might offer.

The second option is to let their family/friends know. If you don’t feel like you’re able to approach them, consider approaching people who are closer to your housemate.

Above all these options, remember to take care of yourself in the process, as it can be emotionally draining being someone else’s emotional support. Taking care of your own wellbeing will mean that you’ll be in a better headspace when your housemate needs your support.

There are always services that can help you if you need support. The Samaritans offer a 24-hour phone service for anyone who needs help, the number for this is: 08457 90 90 90.

Our vision for the Charlie Watkins Foundation can be found here. We are aiming to turn a problem into a solution for university students.

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