There is no better time to talk about mental health than now. There is no more important thing to talk about than mental health. As students, many of us lead highly stressful and pressurised lives.
How many of us can honestly say that when someone asks us how we feel, we tell them the honest truth?
The Union of Students Ireland (USI) launched its campaign Chats For Change last month as part of its mental health week. The USI joined forces with St Patrick’s College and See Change’s successful Please Talk Campaign. Chats For Change tea packs were provided to college campuses across the country with useful support service contacts.
The aim was simple: to get students to make time to chat about their mental health over a cup of tea. The campaign also took to Twitter with the hashtag #LetsTalk, encouraging students to speak out about mental health.
Speaking to Campus.ie, USI Vice-President for Welfare, Greg O’Donoghue said, “We are heading in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. People have no problem in saying they have a broken arm or sore throat. It needs to be the same for mental health. Reducing stigmas is key.”
It’s this stigma that so often prevents students from speaking out about their problems and how they are feeling. However, talking about your mental health does not necessarily have to be in a verbal sense. Love from Future You was a campaign that brought together the words of many people who had struggled with mental health and difficult times.
The premise was simple, remember a time in your life when things were tough and you needed help, write a letter to that person with the advice you would give. The campaign was set up by Cassie Delaney and Aoife Price, and with these letters, the girls combined every single one they received. A word or a phrase was taken from each one, resulting in one letter filled with advice from those who have been in a difficult place and come through it. The letter was read on camera, and recorded. The voices of so many were heard through that letter and continue to be heard through Love from Future You.
Cassie chatted to Campus and said, “I do think people found their voice with this project. The stories we saw and read weren’t the same ones we’ve seen again and again in the media. I found personally a lot of my friends opened up and we finally had honest conversations where mental health was treated on par with physical health.”
“I even noticed very positive comments when the video was shared and I really believe it worked wonders as a conversation starter,” she added.
The last campaign that really struck a chord with me was the Little Things campaign. It was set up by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention. They aimed to get people to express and share the little things that help improve their mental health.
The campaign ran TV and radio advertisements focusing on three different people and their stories. While they all spoke about the bad times, they also spoke about what they did to help themselves. Social media again came into play with the hashtag #littlethings being used to allow users to tweet about the little things that get them through the bad times.
Recently, I found myself in a situation where things were tough, and I was not myself. I lacked motivation and confidence. I faked excuses as to why I couldn’t go out and the only people I confided in were my parents and my boyfriend. My best friends knew nothing. On a recent night out I told two of my closest friends my problems.
I learned the hard way that talking is the best thing you can do for your mental health. After telling my friends an immediate weight was lifted, and despite that only happening recently, I have been talking a lot ever since.
I think it doesn’t matter how you say it, be it a conversation like Chats For Change, a letter to yourself like Love from Future You, or a hashtag like #LittleThings. Just say it.
Photo: Ben Smith/ Flickr