Monday, 4 March 2013

Volunteer helps organise KU Mental Health and Wellbeing Day

Hi my name is Tamara Swales and I am 19 years old studying Medical Biochemistry at Kingston University, located (obviously) in the gorgeous place that is Kingston-Upon-Thames! As well as this I am part of the KUSU netball team, volunteer for RISE (a charity for disabled young people) and am currently one of 100 Team V Leaders across the country!!
What is Team V? It’s an amazing opportunity which allows young people to engage with their local community running a campaign, but as there’s lots of team V leaders throughout the country, we make an impact on a national scale, which is pretty awesome to be a part of. Currently we are beginning campaign 2, entitled ‘make time for your minds-promoting healthy minds and happier lives’.

So… What is this campaign about? It’s all about little steps you can take to improve your mental wellbeing, and with depression and suicide rates increasing and being publicised so widely, now is the time to do something about it and encourage people to take care of their mental health. Just because mental health can’t necessarily be seen doesn’t mean it isn’t important; something realised by every university student around exam time when you’re stressed to the max and cramming in the library! So, what are the steps, you say? Action for Happiness has researched and discovered that the 5 steps to a happier living are Giving, Relating, Exercising, Appreciating and Trying out.

Giving- It’s been proven time and time again that giving to other people makes you feel good, something I know for a fact! Whether it’s as simple as making someone a cup of tea or giving them a bit of chocolate when they’re low, or choosing to volunteer in your area, doing a little bit now and again will help you feel so much better in yourself.

Relating- This is all about communicating and the importance of it. When you have loads on it’s quite easy to slip into the habit of shutting everyone out and getting on with it, but taking little breaks and having a chat to your housemates or your family or someone as random as the postman (or more likely takeaway man) knocking on your door makes you feel so much better and helps relieve some of that stress.

Exercising- Yes, you haven’t heard this one before! But exercising is just as good for your mind as it is for your bodies. Any sort of exercise releases little chemicals called endorphins (the same chemical found in chocolate) which cheer you up and make you feel good, so by exercising you can get the same happy feeling from chocolate without the guilt when you can no longer fit into that bikini you want for your holiday!

Appreciating- This is something people really don’t do enough! As clich├ęd as it sounds ‘stopping to smell the roses’ makes you feel so much better, and realising how many good things you have got going for you makes the bad things seem a lot more manageable. How many people took a day off to mess about in the snow and just enjoy yourself? I know I did, and doing something like that every now and again will make everything seem a lot more manageable.

Trying out- Another proven fact, trying out new things helps to improve your mental health! So you know that one thing you really wanted to do but were too scared to? Go do it, because it could end up being the best decision you made! Trying out for the netball team was a challenge and I’m not brilliant at it, but it was worth it for the people I’ve met and become good friends with and the experiences I’ve had with them! And I’m sure my housemates (all netballers) would certainly agree.

Through talks with the university and the Students’ Union (both of which were amazingly helpful!), I worked with them on ‘University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day’ which was on the 20th February, promoting good mental health for university students! Between 09:30am and 12:30pm you may have seen me and my volunteers in the food store, asking passers-by ‘what they do to look after their mental health.’ Along with some rather interesting responses, we managed to collect a total of approximately 40 applecards, the data of which has been given to the University so they can see exactly what you as students need and want to help relax and how they might go about facilitating that! A good day all round!

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