Wednesday 6 March 2019

I use my voice to promote change around student mental health

Michael shares the three main reasons why he uses his voice and why you should too.
- Michael Priestly

Over the last couple of years I have used my voice to promote change around student mental health. In particular, I have been involved with various mental health campaigns and written blog posts for Student Minds Blog. This University Mental Health Day I am using my voice loudly and proudly, even speaking at two mental health events at my University. 

There are three main reasons why I choose to use my voice, and, I believe, you should too:

First, to help others. I aim to use my voice as a positive and empowering step to helping and supporting others. I hope that, by using my voice, I can help students that might be struggling to feel less alone, raise awareness of the support available, and encourage help-seeking behaviours so that everyone feels able and comfortable to speak up and ask for help when they need to. I fundamentally believe that we can all help each other out by sharing experiences, strategies and advice for managing certain challenges and staying mentally healthy at university. Reading the Student Minds' Blog and hearing others’ tips for managing some of the stress of university life has really helped me and my wellbeing, and I hope that by using my voice I might offer the same to other students.

Second, to help me. As someone who for a long time found it very difficult to talk about my own mental health or recognise and accept when I needed support, the journey to using my voice has helped me to make sense of and learn from my experiences. By using my voice, I have developed my own self-understanding and self-confidence, helping me on my journey to self-acceptance and better mental wellbeing. Not only this, but it has helped me to become more self-aware of the signs that I might be struggling, and more comfortable to speak up and ask for help when I need it. For me, it can feel both empowering and rewarding to tell your own story in your own voice!

Third, to promote change. By using our collective voices, I believe that together we can change the state of student mental health. For me this is change both at an individual level, in terms of raising awareness and understanding, and improving mental health literacy so that everyone feels able to use their voice to ask for help and support when they need it. Speaking up can also help to challenge the stigma and address some of the misunderstandings around mental health difficulties. In addition, I believe that by listening to the voices and experiences of everyone, this can help to identify and promote positive structural changes for student mental health and wellbeing. This could be changes to mentally unhealthy social and education policies, practices and structures, and/or improvements to the support available to students.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable using my voice. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, and I was scared of saying the ‘wrong thing’ and what other people would think of me if I did. Since using my voice though, I have received nothing but love and support - even when I really did not expect to!

We all have mental health, we all have a voice and we all have stories to share. So how will you use your voice and what will using your voice mean for you this University Mental Health Day? Find our how you can get involved.

Hi, I'm Michael. I'm a postgraduate student at Durham. I want to write for Student Minds to share my own experiences of depression and anxiety and tackle the stigma around mental health.

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