LUSU launches Mental Health Awareness Week after new counsellors are secured

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Photograph: Mae Reddaway

In Week 4, LUSU Gives will be hosting ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ at Lancaster University. The event, which takes place from Monday to Sunday, runs in conjunction with the national Mental Health Awareness week hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. The Week follows a sustained effort by LUSU to secure more counsellors for students.

CCO Charity Mia Scott said the idea for Mental Health Awareness Week came from when LUSU Gives ran their first ‘Time to Talk’ event back in February. She said “It was just clear that there was a high demand for people wanting to talk and do more about mental health”.

LUSU Gives have decided to combine the foundation’s themes from the last seven years into one week.  Monday’s theme is ‘Friendship vs Loneliness’, Tuesday: ‘Impact on Sleep’, and Wednesday: ‘Let’s Get Physical’. This is followed by ‘Anger and Mental Health’, on Thursday, ‘Do Good’ on Friday and ‘Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health’ on Saturday. The week concludes with the South West Big Chill on Sunday.

Throughout the week LUSU Gives will have a marquee set up in Alexandra Square with more information and leaflets about mental health. They will also be selling wristbands for £1, which will get students offers on various food and drinks across campus and in town. The money raised from the wristbands will be donated to the mental health charity ‘Lancashire Mind’ who will be hosting some events in town, and will be having drop in sessions on campus throughout the week.

The main thing Scott and the LUSU Gives exec want to achieve from the week, Scott said, is “to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and make people aware that it’s a problem.

“We want people to know its fine to talk about it and encourage people to talk about it because – as it has been found by the Time to Change campaign – that just talking is enough to help someone with mental health problems.”

On the Thursday, Week 4, at 6pm, LUSU Gives will be hosting another Time to Talk event in George Fox lecture theatre one and LUSU will be signing the Time to Talk pledge. LUSU Gives will also be lobbying the University to also sign the pledge. VP (Welfare and Community) Tom Fox said “the pledge is really good and it secures us into the idea that we’re always working on mental health and that it will always be at the top of the agenda and I think that’s a good step.”

“More importantly it shows that if we’re doing it, we can get the University to do it too,” Fox continued. “Which means they have to come up with plans about how they’re going to deal with mental health on campus. It will be good to get them keyed in on that”.

The Mental Health Awareness Week events follows a sustained effort by LUSU to work with the counselling service and SPS to push the University for more counsellors. Fox confirmed to SCAN that in the next two to three weeks there will be a new full time counsellor. He said that this is good news, and shows that the university management see that mental health is an issue.

However, Fox also said “I think there’s a lot more to be done, not just in the counselling service but the University’s whole culture towards dealing with students who have these issues.” He went on to say that “if you look at Roses and how much money the University have given for that and how important they see it – and while that’s great and I obviously really support that – it would be nice to see them understand that there are other areas which could do with a larger uptake in resources.

Similarly, Scott told SCAN “I think it’s amazing that we’ve got a new counsellor, but there’s so much more we can do. Especially if Lancaster Mind are willing to do drop-in sessions for Mental Health Awareness Week. I wonder what’s stopping them doing it once a week permanently.” When she takes over from Fox as VP (Welfare and Community) for the 2014/2015 academic year, Scott said “I want to look into other avenues like that for people who might not necessarily need a counsellor but they can just go and ask somebody for some advice and get some leaflets.”

Scott said she also felt that the Welfare officers in the college JCRs needed more thorough training, telling SCAN said that “in terms of the welfare training it was very brief this year and I think they should be given a sheet or booklet with information about all the services, so that they feel more confident that they can advise people.”

For more information about what is happening throughout Mental Health Awareness Week visit the event page on Facebook.