Speaking Up For Student Mental Health!

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HEALTHWATCH Liverpool, a public voice on health issues, is encouraging students to speak up for their mental health to mark University Mental Health Day. On Thursday 3 March Healthwatch Liverpool is inviting students, universities and health service to speak up and raise the vital issue of student mental health and wellbeing.  The theme of this year’s University Mental Health Day is ‘Heads Together’- recognising that everyone has mental health and we all can get involved in making a difference to the state of mental health at universities. Students who feel stressed, down or anxious can find help by calling Healthwatch Liverpool on 0300 7777 007. Between NHS, university and community services there is a wide range of support available. Healthwatch is calling on students to share the message with their fellow students that no-one needs suffer alone because there are always options available. Liverpool now hosts in the region of 50,000 university students. A recent survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that 8 out of 10 students (78%) say they experienced mental health issues in the last year, while a third (33%) said they had had suicidal thoughts. Many students are living away from the place they have grown up, making new friends and finding a new identity. They may also be exposed to drugs, alcohol and issues around their sexuality and sexual health for the first time, while academic and financial pressures can exacerbate existing issues. These problems are common and can be resolved- but research shows that many students do not feel able to speak up about the challenges they face.
Sarah Thwaites
Sarah Thwaites
Healthwatch Liverpool manager, Sarah Thwaites said: “We like to think of students as enjoying the best years of their lives. “For many students though the reality is that they are facing a mass of new challenges and pressures which can seem overwhelming – especially for those who are living away from home for the first time, in an unfamiliar city and with little idea what help is available.  The first challenge is for a student to ask for help. The second is for services to make sure that the help available meets their needs. “For the first time, those in a position to help are coming together to tell students that help is available and together we can make it better. Don’t suffer in silence.” Last month saw the inaugural meeting of the student mental health network in an event organised by Healthwatch Liverpool, the local health champion, and hosted at John Moores University. Representatives from Liverpool’s universities, City of Liverpool College, mental health support services, GPs, the Royal Liverpool hospital, service commissioners, students and Luciana Berger (Shadow Minister for Mental Health) attended to discuss ideas for practical steps we can all make to improve Liverpool students’ mental health. The meeting was planned following feedback about services that people had shared with Healthwatch Liverpool. This included low awareness of what support is available, long waiting lists, time-limited sessions, and a lack of flexibility for students who return to other parts of the country during university breaks. Positive points were the new option for people to refer themselves to Talk Liverpool for talking therapies and the commitment of a wide range of services to helping students stay mentally well. The network will continue to work together to tackle the problems identified by students. One student said: “Once you’re getting support things tend to be good, but getting into that ‘world’ is incredibly difficult”, while another added: “I just had no idea what support was available.” Luciana Berger, Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health said: “I was delighted to join students, university staff and clinicians from across Liverpool to discuss mental health provisions for the thousands of students living in the city. “Often young people are short-changed by mental health services which don’t take into account the transitional period between adolescence and adulthood. Too many are left to struggle without the help they need, or they have to wait for many months before they get an appointment. “It’s very welcome that Healthwatch Liverpool brought this group together to ensure that students’ voices are at the heart of discussions about what their mental health services should look like. I look forward to seeing the contributions we have heard shape the services offered locally.” More on: www.healthwatchliverpool.co.uk/students