Blog

Surviving Freshers Week – Mental Health Edition

Freshers’ Week activities have come a long way since our marketing manager went to university (back in 2001), but that doesn’t mean that her top tips for making it through those first few weeks don’t stand up today.

In September 2001, Kerri travelled up the road to Bishop Grosseteste College (now Bishop Grosseteste University) in Lincoln to begin her three-year degree in Drama. Despite the 19 years that have passed since that week, she can still remember that first night clearly.

“I cried, I cried all night”, she said.

Kerri had always been a pretty confident girl, she got good grades and enjoyed school, had a whole host of friends and a packed social calendar, but on that first night in a new, unfamiliar place, with no friends to speak of, she felt alone and vulnerable.

“I’m really close to my parents and my brother but facing my first night surrounded by people I didn’t know was daunting and I felt completely out of my depth.”

Thankfully, by the end of that first week she has started to settle in, knew her way around, made friends with the girls she would live with in second year and started to forged lifelong friendships with the people she spends much of her spare time with now.

Here are her top tips for surviving Freshers’ Week and beyond:

  • Develop a good sleep pattern, allowing for some “screen free” time before getting into bed. A consistent sleep routine can be more effective than additional sleep.
  • Regular exercise of 20-30 minutes is enough time for endorphins to be released in your brain that will make you feel happier and sleep better.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet, meal planning and budgeting can be particularly helpful if you are living away from home for the first time.
  • Set manageable goals, don’t push yourself too hard. Set achievable goal, no matter how small these may be.
  • Start journaling, writing down what is on your mind is a great way to understand your thoughts, feelings and emotions.

All universities will have a range of support systems in place, so if you do start to feel down and it lasts for more than two weeks, seek them out and get some advice.

“Remember university is all about learning and growing, so expect to change and change again. Be kind to yourself and if you spot someone who looks like they might need a friend say hello”, Kerri added.

Book recommendations

Shawmind’s sister company, Trigger Publishing, is the UK’s leading mental health and wellbeing publisher. Here are a couple of their latest books which we recommend for students.

Stay Balanced – out now

Award-winning mental health specialist Dr Dominique Thompson explores issues around leaving home, exam stress, socialising, safety, sex, and drugs, to help you succeed and truly enjoy your time as a student.

Dominique says: “Being part of a community is one of the best things for your wellbeing- connecting with others, making friends and feeling like you belong.

“A great way to do this is to volunteer with a local charity- you feel great helping others, others feel great because they are helped, and you meet new, like-minded people. Win-win!

“Smile at people- it’s a great way to show you are friendly, and keen to connect, but not as tricky as starting a new conversation.

“You can smile in a corridor, in a library, in the coffee shop, for example if you recognise someone from a lecture (online or otherwise) and then they will recognise you (subconsciously) as a friendly person, and you can start to chat.”

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the Trigger Publishing site.

Stay Organized While You Study – out now

Prioritising your studies, social life, and everything in between all while looking after yourself can be tricky!

Written by Clinical Psychiatrist Lauren Callaghan, this guide will help you to stay on top of things and harness useful organizational tools so you can successfully navigate your way through the unique pressures and opportunities that student life brings.

For more information or to buy a copy, visit the Trigger Publishing site.

For our student guide to mental health, visit www.shawmind.org/our-mental-health-guides/

Read more

Breathe Café Relaunches Online for Nationwide Support

We are pleased to announce the relaunch of our popular Breathe Café to provide nationwide mental health and wellbeing support.

With social distancing rules continuing to limit the number of people who can meet up, we have turned our attention online for the ongoing provision of our regular Breathe Café group.

Between its launch and the end of 2019, the original Breathe Café, Pop-Up and Hub groups welcomed more than 400 individuals in a range of community spaces.

Su Hallam, Charity Manager at Shawmind, said: “Before lockdown we were regularly welcoming a number of new and regular visitors to our Breathe Café, Hub and Pop-Up groups in Newark, thanks to the support of a number of local venues and our wonderful volunteers.

“We have been holding on to the hope of being able to re-establish the groups, but with the situation as it is, we have decided to take the groups online, so that people can still get the reassurance, support and guidance they need, from the comfort of their own home.

“I’m really looking forward to taking the group online, so we can offer our support to people all over the UK, not just in our hometown of Newark.”

Starting on Tuesday 22nd September the first Breathe Café will take place on Zoom from 7pm until 8.30pm. The group will then take place fortnightly, alternating between a lunchtime and evening meeting time.

The open and accessible group will provide a safe space for people experiencing mental ill health and access to support and resources for their families and friends.

After an introduction from the charity manager, visitors will be encouraged to talk through their feelings, thoughts and worries with experienced Shawmind volunteers, who will be able to signpost to additional services in their communities and offer to be a listening ear in the coming weeks.

To book onto the first group, register for your free place here: http://bit.ly/Shawmind. For details of all future events, please lookout for updates on our social media pages.

Read more

Walk A Mile With Donna

Donna is walking a mile with Shawmind in memory of her father, Graham, who she lost to suicide in 2008. Donna has attended one of our suicide prevention sessions and has found it has brought her some peace as she’s been able to think more about what her father might have been thinking and feeling in the final weeks and days of his life.

Donna knows that she could not have done anything to change the outcome of her father’s choices, but now she has attended the training she feels better equipped to be able to offer help to someone else if she spots the signs. Being empowered to help someone when they need it the most has helped Donna process more of what she has been through and fills her with hope for the future.

If you would like to ‘walk with Donna’ take part in Walk a Mile in My Shoes between 10th September (World Suicide Prevention Day) and 9th October (World Mental Health Day).

Find out more about the campaign, including how to donate and how to share on social media, here.

 

Read more

Are you a dazzling designer or Picasso with a paint brush?

We are searching for brilliant Christmas card designs from talented Primary School artists to use in our Christmas Card Campaign to highlight the importance of children’s mental health and wellbeing. 

Four designs will be chosen from the entries, and printed Christmas cards will be made available to purchase from our website to raise funds for the charity’s work in schools around the country 

We are working to deliver training to 151,000 teachers across the UK in the basics of mental health support, giving them the skills to teach the new mental health curriculum and the confidence to be the mental health front line in the classroom 

How to get involved 

If you would like your pupil’s designs to be considered, pictures must be of one of the following themes and how you see it tying in with mental health and wellbeing: 

  • The Great Outdoors 
  • Friends and Family 
  • Animals  
  • School Days 

For example: a picture of their favourite place to visit, because it makes them happy, a drawing of someone who makes them smile, a picture of their pet that reassures them when they’re nervous or scared or a drawing of their best day at school.  

There is no limit to the number of pictures / entries by an individual or a schoolPlease title the jpegs with the pupil’s first name and your school name – for internal identification (between you and us) when the winners are announced. The names of the four winner’s schools will be printed on the back of all the cards 

Completed picture(scanned or photographed and saved as JPEGs) must be sent by email to cardscomp2020@shawmind.org by the closing date: Friday 2nd October 2020. Note: due to COVID safety rules, we will not accept posted pictures. 

All entries will be shown to our special panel of judges who will pick their favourite four. Winners will be informed by 16th October 2020. 

The designs will then be turned into Christmas cards and ready to purchase from the Shaw Mind website from 19th October 2020.  

So what are you waiting for? Grab your pens, paints or crayons and get creative! 

Conditions of entry (please read) 

By submitting an entry you agree to letting us use the name of your school in publicity and on social media, however, we can confirm that the names of the individual children involved will NOT be shared by us on any platform.  

Judges are appointed at the discretion of Shaw Mind and their decision is final. No correspondence regarding their rationale for decision-making or criteria for selection will be entered into. 

Neither the schools nor the children creating the pictures will be eligible for any compensation and by submitting a picture for this competition the artist and the school grant Shaw Mind a royalty-free licensto use the image in its original form or in amended form on our Christmas Card design for 2020. 

Winning Schools offer 

Each of the winners’ schools will be eligible for a free teacher training place on two-day Mental Health First Aid  course presented by Shaw Mind’s MHFA England-registered trainer. 

In addition, we’re delighted to be able to gift each of the winner’s schools with six children’s picture books, published by Trigger & Upside Down Books, all of which promote positive mental health and wellbeing and are approved by a mental health professional. 

We look forward to receiving your entries. 

Read more

Walk a Mile in My Shoes This September

From Thursday 10th September 2020, Shawmind is inviting people to take part in its month-long activity to encourage gentle exercise, raise funds and increase awareness around suicide, mental health and wellbeing.

The campaign, Walk a Mile in My Shoes, aims to get people thinking -and most importantly- talking to one another about mental health and emotional wellbeing while they walk a mile between World Suicide Prevention Day (10th September) and World Mental Health Day on 9th October.

Supporters will walk alone, with members of their household or with a friend, while adhering to the latest Government advice on social distancing. They might chart their miles throughout the month or simply build themselves up to a couple of miles by the end of the month. The campaign is open to all abilities.

Peter Wingrove, CEO at Shawmind, said:As well as providing an opportunity for people to get out and enjoy some fresh air we hope participants will use Walk a Mile in My Shoes to address the stigma surrounding mental ill health and talk more openly about their wellbeing needs.

“Funds raised through this campaign will go directly to training primary and secondary school teachers in basic mental health support, which is important because they are the front line of mental health in our classrooms.

“75% of diagnosable mental health conditions present before a child’s 18th birthday, so it’s crucial that teachers are well prepared to deal with mental health and can recognise the signs of children in distress”.

“It costs £100 to train each teacher and we would like to train 151,000 in the next five years, so that they can make a real difference to the lives of young people now and in the future. To achieve this, we are asking people to get behind us and Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

How to Take Part

At the end of their first mile, walkers are encouraged to upload a photo or video to their social media channels and tell everyone about Walk a Mile in My Shoes, before challenging four friends to do the same.

Walkers are invited to tag @Shawmind_ in the posts and use the hashtag #WalkAMileInMyShoes. Shawmind will share as many posts as possible during the campaign and will release a montage video featuring as many posts as possible on World Mental Health Day on 9th October.

How to Fundraise

Fundraisers are welcome to set up their own fundraising page or they can call for donations to be made directly through Shawmind’s Just Giving or Go Fund Me pages or through Facebook.

Similarly, if they prefer to collect donations in cash and transfer it to the charity, they can send cheques or a transfer via PayPal, or via BACS/EFT into the charity’s bank account. Visit shawmind.org/donate for more details.

Need some inspiration to take part?

 Walk with Donna*

Donna is walking a mile with Shawmind in memory of her father, Graham, who she lost to suicide in 2008. Donna has attended one of our suicide prevention sessions and has found it has brought her some peace as she’s been able to think more about what her father might have been thinking and feeling in the final weeks and days of his life.

Donna knows that she could not have done anything to change the outcome of her father’s choices, but now she has attended the training she feels better equipped to be able to offer help to someone else if she spots the signs. Being empowered to help someone when they need it the most has helped Donna process more of what she has been through and fills her with hope for the future.

Walk with Mandy and Chris*

Mandy and Chris are walking a mile with Shawmind to celebrate the support they have both received from the charity and a range of other healthcare providers following Chris’ OCD diagnosis in 2015.

Chris often joins our Mancave men’s mental health group to share his experiences with others and has the ongoing support of one of our volunteers when he needs it. Both keen walkers, Chris and Mandy use their time outdoors to talk more openly about the challenges they both face and to boost their wellbeing. The pair are aiming to clock up the miles this month and get other people to join in.

Walk with Maryum*

Maryum is a published author and mother to two boys, who experienced post-natal depression after the birth of her second child. Maryum has written a book about her personal experiences and shares her journey on a popular parenting blog.

Maryum is one of Shawmind’s incredible champions and often mentions us, and our support services, when she is speaking to the broadcast media and giving talks.

Along with her family, Maryum is taking part in the Walk a Mile in My Shoes campaign to highlight the importance of talking more openly with family and friends about your mental health.

Walk with Luis*

Luis is 10-years old. When Luis was eight, he started self-harming as a coping strategy after months of being bullied at school.

Having previously loved being at school, Luis’ parents noticed a huge change in his behaviour and when they realised what was happening sought professional help.

Luis’ mother regularly drops into our Breathe Café to seek reassurance and additional signposting from our team of volunteers.

The whole family are only at the very start of their journey, but they will be taking part in Walk a Mile in My Shoes to raise awareness of mental health among other families in their community.

Join Donna, Mandy, Chris, Maryum, Luis and the team at Shawmind as they challenge the stigma associated with mental ill health and suicide, together.

Read more

What Back to School Means for Kids in 2020

This first full week in September has meant the return to school for millions of children in England after a six-month lockdown.

For those who are starting at a new school there will be all the usual pressures of making new friends and familiarising themselves with new surroundings.

In addition, the class of 2021 is now catching up on the predicted shortfall in learning, dealing with the mental health implications of the lockdown, handling the subsequent social distancing rules and the fact that they are going back to school amid a pandemic.

What’s the good news?

Schools have been working hard during the lockdown, teaching those pupils who still came in, preparing and delivering teaching resources for pupils learning from home and putting in place all manner of processes and safety measures to enable students to return this week.

In addition, this new cohort of children and teenagers are the first to benefit from mental health and wellbeing being introduced into the curriculum.

This means that teachers and other school support staff will not only be openly discussing mental health in the classroom, but they will be more aware of what to look for in pupils who might need additional support in this area.

Pupils will be learning more about how to build their own resilience and develop more complex coping strategies, which should stand them in good stead for better mental health and wellbeing throughout their lives.

Shawmind, which was instrumental in getting the initial debate on mental health education in schools tabled in Parliament in 2017, is committed to providing additional training to teachers.

In fact, we’re running a fundraising campaign right now, Give Five, Save Lives, to raise the necessary funds to train additional teachers across the country.

If you’re a teacher interested in mental health training, please contact us to discuss your specific needs.

Mental Health Training for Families

We’ve spent lockdown devising a range of mental health training resources for children, teenagers and their parents and we’re proud to introduce our Monkey Wisdom courses.

If you would like to get a free taster of what the courses have to offer please visit our YouTube channel and watch Tana Macpherson-Smith deliver a session for teenagers and parents.

Click here to find out more about the full courses: https://shawmind.org/online-training-children-mental-health/

Back to School Giveaway

In partnership with Trigger Publishing, the UK’s leading mental health and wellbeing publisher, we have been giving away copies of Superheroes Don’t Get Scared and My Mindful Journal to competition winners via our social media pages.

Three winners have already got their copies – just head to our Facebook or Twitter accounts to find out more and to take part.

The competition ends on Tuesday 22nd September 2020.

Free Mental Health Guides

A range of mental health guides are available to download for free from our website and cover all the basics when it comes to a mental health disorder. Our guides are approved by a qualified mental health practitioner.

Head over here for your free guides: https://shawmind.org/our-mental-health-guides/

Volunteer Support

If you need to access our support services, please get in touch to talk to us today. If you need to talk, we’re here to listen.

Read more

Studying, Strategies and Staying Mentally Healthy

I’ve been a student for 7 years post high school. Studying both in my home town of Worthing and London, and now starting a Masters course in Brighton.

It’s been an enjoyable experience, meeting new people and learning new things. But it hasn’t always been easy.

Living with many mental health challenges and a chronic pain condition can be a challenge, especially if you are starting on a higher education journey.

Here’s some of my top tips that you could apply to make your time studying that little bit less stressful!

Note: There is no one size fits all approach to main ting good mental health, it’s about finding what works for you and seeking professional help and support if appropriate.

  1. Freshers: Go at your own pace. There will be lots of events and it’s a busy time of the year. People enrolling, getting used to their new study places and meeting course and flat mates. It’s important you go at a pace that suits you and you know you can handle without it being overwhelming.
  2. Learn to say no. During freshers or even group collaborative tasks. If you feel like things are getting too much or you are being held responsible for something that is meant to be collaborative effort, then speak up.
  3. You do you. Uni and college is a place to find out your own identity, and affirm it. Own it. It is a journey of self discovery and one that will stay with you forever, find what excites you. Find what makes you tick. Find what helps you when you are having a rough time. Find yourself. As when we are able to be our most authentic selves, great things can happen!
  4. Find your tribe. There are lots of different people at universities and colleges, from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, genders, ethnicities and subject disciplines. Societies are a great way of meeting people with similar interests to yourself. Finding a group who you click with is important as we all need people to help us along our journey, and to have a bit of fun with too!
  5. Set yourself a schedule to stay organised. If you have a lot of deadlines (yes… be prepared!) then it’s a good idea to give yourself the time and space for not only out of lecture study, but for total relaxation too. Having at least one day to switch off a week is so important as it gives you time to focus on your mental health, what’s important to you and maintaining a good work life balance.
  6. Make a support list. On your phone, in a notepad, even a poster on a wall. Writing down any people who you can go to for support is important as if you are having difficulty or feeling as if you need to reach out, having these contacts easily available will take the pressure of searching. These contacts could be support workers at your university, your GP or local charities in your area.

Most importantly, my top tip is to recognise and acknowledge that you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do with your life as soon as you get to uni.

When I started I had no clue what I wanted to do but in the end, after a few years of searching, finding my tribe and allowing myself a good work/life balance, I made the decision to pursue becoming a college/uni teacher and community artist and found that this career path suited me as I could give back and give others a chance to express themselves through creative theatre education!

Going to university can give you so many different experiences and options for your future. And it’s okay to try all of these out.

So thats just a short list of some of my top tips.

Enjoy your uni experience, try your best as your besties good enough, and remember that mental Health doesn’t have to stop you or hold you back!

– Claudia

Claud is a creative educator, theatre artist and mental health and disability advocate with a passion for inspiring others to reach their potential.

Read more