Launched in February of this year, Cardiff University’s #LetsShare campaign aims to encourage staff and students to start conversations about mental health. This has been created in collaboration with Time to Change, a movement that aims to change our attitudes and approach towards mental health issues, for the better.
Discussions about our own experiences of mental health are often avoided due to feelings of fear, embarrassment and nervousness. Equally, asking others to open up may feel too intrusive or awkward. But these conversations are a vital means of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, and offering support to those who need it.
The #LetsShare campaign is centred around a core ‘SHARE’ ethos:
Speak about your own mental health: Opening up can be difficult. You may feel that people won’t understand how you’re feeling, or you just don’t know who to turn to. But there are people out there who want to listen and help you work through your problems. This is also an effective way to reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health.
Help others to speak about their own mental health: The fear of saying the ‘wrong thing’ can make asking a friend or a loved one about their mental health difficult. But don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Being an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, more often than not, is a helpful thing to do. It’s not a matter of ‘fixing’ things, but just letting someone know you’re there to support them.
Access support and encourage others to do the same: Now more than ever, universities across the UK are offering a number of specialist mental health services to their staff and students. You don’t have to handle things on your own. Contacting student support, wellbeing services, councillors, or even making an appointment with your GP is a great first step.
Recognise the impact of language use: Terms such as ‘crazy’ ‘mental’ and ‘depressed’ have become commonplace in our everyday vocabulary, but are often used inappropriately. Using these terms (when it’s not what we really mean) risks minimising the very real experiences of those with mental health issues. Thinking about the language we use can help reduce the creation of stereotypes and the chance of any misunderstandings.
Expect that the small things can make a big difference: Sending a text, meeting for a coffee, inviting someone round for dinner. What may not seem like a massive gesture to you could make all the difference to those that you reach out to. Equally, doing little things for yourself (meeting with friends, turning off your phone, having a pamper evening) can help support your own mental health.
The ethos of this campaign captures the importance of being able to openly discuss your own mental health, and ask others about theirs, free from judgement. These values are communicated to staff and student audiences alike through various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The hashtag #LetsShare is used to promote a whole range of informative and supportive material including: signposting specialised university support services; publicising wellbeing workshops being held by the university; and sharing videos showing staff and students discussing their own mental health issues, and how they have worked through these with the University’s support. This is a great way to effectively communicate the message of the campaign, whilst offering practical advice to those that may not know who else to turn to:
Student ‘Wellbeing Champions’ also openly discuss their own mental health struggles on a University blog. This reflects the importance of making advice more relatable for audiences that may not necessarily realise they are struggling with mental health issues, or know what to do about it. Additionally, hearing from others who have their own experiences of the issues being discussed may, in turn, make staff and students feel more willing to open up with a “If they’ve got through this, so can I” mentality. The campaign is further promoted with large posters and signs placed inside various university buildings. These were particularly prominent during the recent exam season, reminding all members of the University community to SHARE their struggles during what can be a stressful time.
The core message of this campaign is undeniably a crucial one: we need to talk about mental health. We need to talk about our own issues, and we need to listen to the struggles of others. It is only through this open and free-from-judgement discussion that we can reduce the stigma around mental health. This campaign takes a pragmatic approach towards this issue by creatively and effectively engaging with audiences, predominantly through social media. Knowing that the help is out there and how to access it could make all the difference to staff and students struggling with their mental health.
If you are a student struggling with a mental health issue, you can also visit the Student Minds website for further advice and support links.
Ellie has just finished her third year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED measures. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.