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University Mental Health Day 2023: Reaching Out

A message for our student community from Dr Ben Marshall, Head of Student Wellbeing and Welfare.

And a request to fill out our survey so we can provide the support you want: www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CI335M/.

(content note: suicide)

This University Mental Health Day, I wanted to highlight the Reach Out Campaign, which continues its drive to get students engaged with appropriate support at the earliest stage possible. This fortnight’s theme is suicide. It’s important to talk frankly about suicide as there are a lot of myths that persist about it. One of them is that suicidal thoughts are rare or only happen to certain types of people – in fact these are remarkably common and can occur to anyone at any time.

However it’s important, whether you experience them fleetingly or frequently, that you engage with a relevant professional for help addressing or managing them and reducing their impact. This is because a further myth is that these things should be kept to yourself or that experiencing and seeking support for them is somehow shameful or a sign of weakness. It isn’t. All sorts of incredibly strong people, both within our college community and wider society, have faced suicidal thoughts at points in their lives and sought help.

Here is a link for the university’s support services hub for situations where you or someone you know is struggling, which includes links for crisis situations: www.studentsupport.cam.ac.uk. Similarly within college, use the above link first if there is an immediate crisis but myself or Debbie Ellis, our College Nurse, will be more than happy to help you create a supportive plan to help you cope. We can be reached on bjm71@hughes.cam.ac.uk and nurse@hughes.cam.ac.uk.

At Hughes Hall, we place a great deal of value on our welfare provision and have a tutorial team dedicated to your wellbeing, as well as a specific Head of Student Wellbeing and Welfare, College Nurse and College Counsellor.

What is the right approach for you might be different to that for someone else so it’s important to get expert input. This could involve creating a safety plan with a nurse, therapeutic options such as those from the university counselling service, taking a break from study, addressing wider stressors in your life or liaising with a medical professional around your medication options.

Another myth is that talking to someone frankly about any suicidal thoughts they may have increases their risk of following up these thoughts with action. It doesn’t. Social connection and meaningful input from concerned others can be transformative when someone is struggling and we shouldn’t shy away from it. This doesn’t mean you should ‘solo’ supporting someone however and please do encourage any person you are concerned about to draw on the university and college support available such as via the link above.

The University’s Reach Out campaign highlights resources across the university and colleges designed to meet the mental health and wider wellbeing needs of students

I want our college to be a place where we can talk frankly and without stigma about suicide and I’ve been really encouraged by many of the conversations I’ve had about it with a variety of people in my short time in post so far. Please help us create a suicide-safer environment by reaching out if you are struggling, similarly reaching out to anyone you think might be struggling and continuing to have important conversations in general. On this note I’d like to briefly highlight the student support survey we currently have live here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CI335M/ which will help us ensure that the help we provide from college is most effective.

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