UCD Students’ Union joined the globe to participate in World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10 in hopes of boosting mental health awareness.
In addition to providing free de-stressing programming, UCDSU invited various local mental health organizations to share their mission with students. Sarah Michalek, Mental Health Campaign Coordinator, hopes the day will help emphasise the importance of taking care of your mental health on a daily basis—and not just when you are feeling down.
‘Though we are beginning to talk more openly about it, mental health is still a topic that people sometimes find difficult to bring up,” Michalek said. “I think that promoting support services available inside and outside of UCD is really important.”
World Mental Health Day is a global effort to increase awareness about mental health issues and resources. This year’s focus is on suicide prevention, which is particularly pertinent to college-age students, as 20 to 24 year olds have the highest rate of suicide in Ireland. A recent survey also showed that 38% of Irish third-level students experience extreme anxiety, and 30% experience depression—generating growing concerns around mental health at universities.
Eight health organizations set up booths and sent representatives to share their resources to students, including Samaritans, Aware, Seechange, Shine, Pieta House, SpunOut, Niteline, and Addictive Eaters Anonymous. These groups provide a wide range of support services for various issues, from self harm to stigma. Their services include anonymous support groups, help lines, counseling, and free therapy.
Many of the representatives said they were excited to share their organization’s mission with students and help bring awareness of the different opportunities to get help. Informational flyers, sign-up sheets, and business cards were available for anyone to take. Many groups also had opportunities for students to get involved as a volunteer.
“Face-to-face interactions tend to be more informative, convincing and personal, so I am hoping it will encourage students to reach out when in need.” Michalek said.
Other activities included yoga and heartfulness sessions, building mental health first aid kits, and safe space areas. The day ended with a talk by Lisa Sharon Harper, founder of Freedom Road, and Ebun Joseph, Black Studies module coordinator at UCD. The conversation focused on racial stratification and the mental health of young people of color.
First-year Laura Irene, who was involved with setting up the day, noted the importance of providing access to resources, particularly for first-year students who are going through a difficult transition from secondary school to college. The workload at UCD can be quite heavy, so it is useful for students to know how to seek help, she said.
“I hope that through participating in the variety of activities on the day, students will learn about various ways of focusing on positive mental health, and that you can and should always take time aside to take care of your mind.” Michalek noted. “The chill space is a reminder that it’s okay to sometimes take time out and relax when things get very hectic.”
Shannon Fang – Reporter