Mental Health Week took place from the 21st to the 25th of November in UCD. It was run by the Students’ Union with support from organisations Please Talk and Reach Out.
SU Welfare officer, Rachel Breslin, explained that the campaign was designed to create awareness about mental health and to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems: “a lot of events we’re running this week are very serious events, but there are also some light-hearted events … we’re trying to get it across in the biggest variety of ways possible so that everyone can get involved.”
Included in the 2,000 mental health packs handed out across campus during the week were leaflets, important phone numbers, pens, badges and two sheets of paper which would become part of a “State of Mind” wall in the Student Centre, “one says ‘I last felt sad when…’ and the other says ‘I last felt happy when…’ – we’re going to put those up on the wall in the Student Centre … I really wanted a physical manifestation of the week … something that people can see because you always get people that can’t go to the talks or can’t go to the comedy event or won’t see you that day in arts or wherever you are.”
Breslin was happy with the response from students and believes that the various national and student mental health campaigns are having a positive effect, “I’m genuinely surprised at the amount of people writing notes and taking time out to engage in a campaign that may have been stigmatised before … the main objective is to reduce the stigma, that really does seem to be happening right across the board”.
One of the biggest events of the week was the Ardal O’Hanlon and Foil Arms and Hog gig in the Student Bar, which was organised by the Comedy Society. Other events included a duvet day, talks about mental health and a Please Talk breakfast.
During the week, Breslin wanted to address the stigma associated with “feeling down”, expressing that “people come into me and say I’m the only one that’s like this or I’m really sorry I’m like this or you must think I’m awful, not understanding that there are so many people in the exact same boat and that it’s ok not to feel ok”.
Breslin advises students combating stress during the exam period to “take a break, do something that makes you happy because there is a lot of pressure at this time of year”.