University Mental Health Day takes place on March 1st this year. The initiative is run by Student Minds and UMHAN (University Mental Health Advisers Network). Last year, around 7,800 people across 81 universities campaigned on the day. Online, 5603 individuals used the hashtag #UniMentalHealthDay reaching an amazing 17 million unique users. University Mental Health Day focuses efforts on promoting the mental health of people who live, work and study in Higher Education settings.
The day is based around organised events and activities aimed at facilitating a campus-wide conversation on mental health issues, raising awareness of the challenges facing those with mental ill health, and the support available.
This year’s University Mental Health Day theme of Community was chosen in response to the Student Minds’ Grand Challenges report which identified a lack of community as one of the key challenges to student mental health. Many young people can struggle when they move away from home for the first time, unable to rely on a familiar support network of family and friends. This can leave some individuals in a vulnerable position when it comes to developing mental health difficulties.University Mental Health Day organisers argue that communities are fundamental to our mental health and wellbeing because they promote:
A sense of belonging which leads to reduced isolation which in turn encourages positive wellbeing, improving both physical and mental health outcomes;
Networks of support, where there is signposting, promotion and partnerships with existing mental health support services both in the university and local community.
The theme of community is also timely given Universities UK's recent launch of the #StepChange framework for mental health at higher education institutions. The programme encourages a joined-up approach in order to transform cultures and embed mental health initiatives beyond student services, including the promotion of community awareness and cohesion. Further, embedded throughout the ProtectED Code of Practice is the requirement that member universities develop working links with businesses, charities, organisations and experts in the wider community to enhance the provision of safety and wellbeing support for students.
To get involved at your university, download the University Mental Health Day 'Campaign Toolkit' for help with recruiting volunteers, planning events and evaluating the outcomes of the day. You can also sign up to the event newsletter for updates on happenings around the UK.