Conference aims to open up mental health discussion

World Mental Health Day is about helping people feel safe and supported, and opening up the conversation around mental health in a de-stigmatised way.


TALKING about mental health can be tough – especially during Covid-19 – but the University of Sunderland (UoS) has accepted the challenge by organising a conference to mark World Mental Health Day.

The Wellbeing Conference tomorrow (October 14) follows the international day of action and awareness last Saturday.

Alisa Tsykhotsky, health and wellbeing manager at UoS in London said: “We are doing this to inspire the whole academic community to work collaboratively, work in partnership with our students and work towards a culture of wellbeing.”

The conference will focus on a “whole system” approach to wellbeing and the mental health of students and staff, and will be hosted on Microsoft teams (2pm – 3.45pm).

Ben Hodgson, head of disability services at UoS in Sunderland said: “The main aim is to increase awareness of what’s available for all students and staff. We try as best as we possibly can to open up the service, and ensure students are not apprehensive about approaching us and looking into what might be available.

“The aim is to ensure people don’t feel that they’ll be stigmatised in some way if they access services.”

One of the big challenges universities still face is getting students to talk about their mental health struggles.

Jane Trattles is a third-year Mental Health Nursing student at Sunderland, who decided to share her own experience in a video.

“Mental health issues come in different forms and I feel there is still a massive stigma,” said Jane. “People don’t understand it fully and they don’t treat it like physical health.

“I suffered from depression and anxiety during lockdown. I feel it’s important to talk about, and I feel people feel alone, especially when they’ve been denied any contact with family and friends. I have spoken with many people in the past month and they all feel the same. So I went and asked for help from the Wellbeing team at UoS, and they helped me with my problems.”

Jane added: “I feel on Mental Health Day we should all reach out to people because they could be in our situation, but afraid to talk. Have a virtual cuppa if you think somebody is struggling. Tell them that they are not alone and it’s important for people suffering from mental health to seek help, because if they bottle it up, soon or later it’s going to explode.”

Kamelia Nouar is a first-year Business Management student who suffers from cerebral palsy, and said: “I was quite nervous starting university this year with everything that’s going on.

“However, I have found that the disability team at the university are very supportive and reassuring and are always willing to help, whatever my needs and circumstances may be.”

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