Wednesday 6 March 2019

5 reasons I am Using My Voice

Rosie shares 5 reasons why she is using her voice this University Mental Health Day.
- Rosie Steele

1. To highlight what is great at my university.
My university offers great Wellbeing services from drop-in counselling to mindfulness sessions, presentation anxiety courses and the always loved therapy dogs. However, so many students are not aware of what is on offer or do not know where to look for the help they may need. My aim for this University Mental Health Day is to Use My Voice to highlight the help on offer, how it can be accessed and why it is important that as a university community we celebrate what is offered. With a third of students reporting psychological distress (Berwick, 2008) greater visibility of the services will help to cement LJMU as a university that centres wellbeing providing students with the potential to take agency over their own wellbeing whilst at the university. 

2. But also, what needs to be improved on.
Real change comes when we collectively use our voices to create change. From listening to other students in my role as a student campaigns group leader, certain things crop up time and time again including more accessible services across the whole campus and more personal contact with university staff. So, when the bad times do come they feel confident to reach out. Unfortunately, I cannot achieve this alone but through using my voice I can attend university-wide wellbeing meetings and take the student voice with me, re-telling the stories I am told at society meetings to ensure I am using my voice for good, involving the whole student community.

3. To show that I am always willing to listen.
For me, using my own voice to speak up about student mental health is only one part of a double-sided coin. This past year I have really come to learn that because I am now comfortable in talking about my mental health does not mean everybody is or that they feel they have somebody to open up to. This University Mental Health Day I want to Use My Voice to show I am always willing to listen and the importance of listening when individuals find the confidence to open up.

When I opened up to a new housemate in my third year about my mental health after a particularly bad panic attack, she made the effort to ask me how I was every single day, and we would talk in our tiny kitchen whilst we ate. I don’t think she realised how much those three little words, how are you, helped me tackle the murky waters of the third year or how her voice helped me. Due to how the voices of others have helped me, I want to make sure I am that person to other students and continue to provide a safe space for open conversation in our campaign group meetings.

4. To show other students that it is okay to need help.
Throughout my undergraduate degree I had the opinion that it was not okay to be struggling mentally, especially with the workload, or with anxiety around achieving certain grades as I did not see these problems that would be taken seriously and I had chosen to be there. The student stereotype is so focused on a particular version of student life which usually involves going out and having the best three years of your life. This is not the case for everybody, but can often look this way. When I started talking I started to hear stories similar to my own, of going home at weekends and intense loneliness when I was so certain nobody else was feeling like I was.

I will Use My Voice on the 7th of March and beyond to show that there is not one cookie cutter student, we are all different and all react differently to the pressures that come with being a student, and that is okay. No problem is too trivial and it is always okay to ask for help when it is needed, and that help should always be received.

5. To encourage others to use their voice
It can be very easy for someone like me who runs a campaigns group and both blogs and speaks about my own mental health very openly to talk about how easy it is to use your voice or even to start the conversation to ask for help at the university.

However, I understand that is not always the case, as I too was once extremely scared of the reaction I would receive and would it affect how I was treated? Asking for help at university is the hardest thing I have ever done, as I was extreme distress when I finally asked for help.

Now I will always encourage people to use their voice in small ways. To ask for help when it is needed, to have the courage to tell a lecturer you are struggling or to open up with a friend for the first time.

Through using my voice, I hope to share with my fellow students that conversations do not need to be big, or at a university-wide level, or even happening every single day but they do need to be happening, for ourselves and to inspire change. Find out how you can use your voice.

Hi, I am Rosie is a MA Mass Communications student from Liverpool John Moores and am president of LJMU Student Minds campaign group. 

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