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World Mental Health Day - time to reflect on our wellbeing

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Thursday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. It is an opportunity to take a few moments to reflect on our own wellbeing, the support that is available to us and how we can support other members of the University community.

We know that life presents us with a mix of opportunities and challenges, but it can often feel hard to say ‘I’m not ok’. There is a wealth of research, though, that the more we talk about how we’re feeling, the better for our overall health and wellbeing.

University colleagues can access Confidential Care, a completely confidential and independent service that can be accessed at any time of day or night, 365 days a year. Support is available for whatever issues someone might be facing, including general low mood, work stress, depression and anxiety, marriage and relationship issues, legal concerns, coping with change, parenting issues, financial problems, health issues and much more. Confidential Care also offers a comprehensive wellbeing resource "well online", which offers information and advice on optimising health and wellbeing.

The University is working on other initiatives like the Wellbeing Peer Support, the details of which we will be sharing in the coming weeks.

If you work with students, please assure them where you can that every student journey is unique and there is no ‘typical’ experience. There will be highs and lows, which is entirely normal. Whatever the issues they are facing, please remind students that they  should make use of the wide range of support that Reading offers, as well as externally:

Suicide prevention

The theme of World Mental Health Day this year is suicide prevention, a difficult topic for many of us to talk about. It is a leading cause of death among people aged 20-34 and we should all encourage those around us to speak out if something is affecting them deeply.

If you are an Academic Tutor or work in a student-facing role, there may be times when you are faced with a student in crisis. Please refer to the Guidance for University staff on suicide prevention on what warning signs to look for and the protocol to help prevent any harm to the student, or others.

In the sad event of a death within our University community, our priority is to support those immediately affected and respect the wishes and privacy of family and friends. In relation to a suspected suicide in particular, there is significant evidence that how we talk about the death can have a significant impact on others who are vulnerable. Following professional advice of mental health charities, we would focus on those close to the person and refrain from unnecessary wider communication. The Samaritans have produced some guidelines that, although aimed at the media, contain some useful tips and advice on communicating about suicide.

Five steps to mental wellbeing

Evidence suggests there are five steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. If you give them a try you may feel happier, more positive and able to get the most from life. The five steps are:

Give to others

Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with people around you.

Take notice/be mindful

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep learning

Try something new or rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Be active

Swap your inactive pursuits with active ones. Go for a walk. Step outside. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Walk or cycle when making short journeys. Being active makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Connect

Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

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