This Society is Battling Mental Health Stigma and Empowering Students
“One in four people, like me, have a mental health problem. Many more people have a problem with that…Once the understanding is there, we can all stand up and not be ashamed of ourselves, then it makes the rest of the population realise we are just like them but with something extra.”
–Stephen Fry, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive
Stephen Fry may be an English comedian, but his thoughts on mental health are no joke–people suffering from mental illness do have something extra. Extra worries, extra needs, and extra struggles in daily life. Unfortunately for many students at the University of Stirling, that “something extra” can take its toll on their studies. Balancing classes and work while struggling to manage the symptoms of a mental health problem can be difficult. Luckily, a new student society is fighting to help.
The SU Mental Wellbeing Society hasn’t been established at the University of Stirling for very long. Fourth year student Rylee Binns founded the club during the summer of ’16 with the intention of helping Stirling students find a support network among their peers. Rylee (who uses the non-binary pronouns they/them) suffers from borderline personality disorder and understands what it is like to struggle to find support while studying at uni. They started the club because it can often be quite difficult to get support from the NHS due to long waiting lists. They believed having a support system here at uni while waiting for professional help would help students like themselves.
“The society is important [because] it provides a support network for students who have mental health issues. Having a safe space to go to once a week to meet with likeminded people and share experiences is really nice,” says Rylee.
For many students facing a mental illness here at Stirling, finding support and understanding among fellow students can be daunting. The society offers a way to bridge the gap and connect students with friends and resources that can help.
The society accepts members of all types, not just those who suffer from a mental illness. It’s for anyone who needs a friend or a break from the stress of exams. For all its members and visitors, the society holds events each Tuesday night. A few of the events held so far include a yoga session, a mental health recovery discussion, and collaborative sessions with fellow societies. It also hosts relaxed events such as group bowling, a tea and cakes party, and a de-stress session with Legos and play dough.
Since being established as an official student union society, the SU Mental Wellbeing Society has made an effort to educate students about mental health. It has connected students with mental health campaigns, gathered feedback about the free counselling service offered to students, and found discounted student counsellors in the Stirlingshire area. It has also taught students to use creative methods to manage stress and depression at uni, such as art therapy. I, as a member of the club myself, use computer art as a means of stress relief. I created the images in this post as part of that.
On December 9th, the SU Mental Wellbeing Society will be holding a “Paws Against Stress” event in the Venue from 11am-1pm as another creative form of stress relief. Canine Concern Scotland will be there with some happy puppies to help Stirling students get through the stress of exam week. “Paws Against Stress” will provide a safe space for students to relax and forget about their worries while petting some loving puppies. After a full semester of events and meetings, this is the perfect event to finish out the society’s first semester. To learn more about Canine Concern Scotland, check out their website here: http://www.canineconcernscotland.org.uk/
Mental health recovery can be daunting, but it is possible. Being a student recovering from a mental illness is no longer something Stirling students have to do alone. The SU Mental Wellbeing Society has offered them a chance to find help and hope.