Uncategorised 16 May 2019

Time to talk: Empowering students to open up about mental health

By Downing

Written by Tariq Akbar, Head of Operations at Downing Students

Each year Mental Health Awareness Week aims to encourage people across the UK to open up and start talking about mental health.

In a world that is increasingly understanding and accepting the signs and symptoms associated with mental health issues, it’s important that we continue to encourage more people to share their stories and experiences.

According to the Mental Health Foundations (MHF), around 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year in the UK.

Research has also shown that the majority of mental health problems develop by the age of 24, meaning that university students are one of the main groups marked at a higher risk of living with a mental health problem.

This can be caused by a range of factors, from the demands of academic work or financial difficulties, to the pressure of trying to settle in and make new friends away from home – and even in a different country.

Data from this year’s National Student Housing Survey, which interviewed more than 33,000 students from across the UK, shows that privately-managed student accommodation delivers significantly better wellbeing impact for students than university managed accommodation.

At Downing Students, we are committed to delivering great pastoral care through the support of our hall managers who have all attended mental health first aid training and who are based on-site at our schemes across the country, ensuring that our students are happy, safe and supported during their stay with us.

We believe that supporting students’ wellbeing through pastoral care is key to making higher education a more inclusive environment and one in which people from a range of backgrounds and circumstances will be given the foundations to succeed.

In 2017, more than 15,000 first-year students in UK universities reported that they had suffered with a mental health problem, compared to approximately 3,000 in 2006. This increase is also mirrored by a 94% of higher education institutions reporting an increase in demand for their counselling services.

Downing Students offers a range of facilities and services designed to improve our students’ university experience. To support this, we have built close links to the university support teams in each city we are located in to ensure we are providing a holistic, joined-up approach to pastoral care.

Across the UK, Downing Students’ schemes feature a large variety of social spaces for students to interact and make new friends, including lounge spaces with comfortable sofas, large cinema rooms as well as fun activities to help break the ice such as pool and table tennis. We also provide free on-site gyms where students can take time to exercise, which is a proven way to help relieve stress.

We host events for our students such as mindfulness sessions and head massages around exam time to help students relax. We also employ dedicated student ambassadors at all our schemes, who students are also encouraged to approach for support.

Whether our students suffer from temporary, unexpected or long-term difficulties, good pastoral care can ensure that we give them the support network to succeed and provide them the personal life skills and building blocks that will help them in the future.

Downing Students is on hand to offer student support and guidance.

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