In her first blog as mental health student editor, Sabrina Carter discusses “mutual recovery” and the concept that everyone is affected by mental ill health, regardless of their profession
Over the last few years, it’s safe to say I have developed an insatiable passion to promote mental health awareness. It’s probably one of the main reasons I chose to enter this profession.
But mental health and mental ill health is something all of us can relate to; whether it’s our own mental health, or the mental health of a friend, partner, colleague or family member. The problem is, more often than not, we feel we can’t talk about what’s really going on. “Will I be judged?” “Will they be judged?” “Does this make me inferior or weak?” “Will I lose my job/place at university?”.
Sometimes, it feels easier to avoid talking about it. Other times, it just feels safer to permanently shield yourself from the conversation, to allow only a lucky few to penetrate its surface.
“Nursing is no exception to stigma - and it probably never will be”
But hey, how would I know? I’m training to be a mental health professional so that makes me exempt from such issues, right? As professionals, surely we’re immune to all of this?
Wrong. So wrong. While I’m no expert, I can certainly speak of my own experiences of stigma; on placement, among friends and colleagues at university - even against my own family’s mental health problems. Nursing is no exception - and it probably never will be.
These days, you may be coming across more articles in the newspapers regarding student mental health. Headlines along the lines of “Universities need to do more to promote student mental health” and “More and more students are suffering from mental health problems” come to mind. While this is true, to me they also seem to be missing something that is key to improving mental health in Higher Education: mutual recovery.
“We need to shift our focus from individual recovery to community recovery”
Now, in all honesty I hadn’t really heard of this term until a few weeks ago when I attended the UK’s first ‘Raising Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education’ Conference at the University of Nottingham. I was able to hear from the likes of Professor Paul Crawford about the need to shift our focus from individual recovery to community recovery.
What role can the formation of stronger communities at university play in exploring mental wellbeing and mental ill health? How can the arts and humanities be used to facilitate this? Is it always necessary to place boundaries between staff and students? These were some of the many questions I have been left to ponder over for the last few weeks.
Nevertheless, by celebrating World Mental Health Day in this way, I was extremely lucky to be a part of a planning committee and team that was dedicated to this cause. Indeed, we all shared a common motive which fundamentally helped to develop a day that was more than just a dissemination of knowledge, one that encouraged compassion, openness and the sharing of experiences with one another, no matter who you were, where you were from, or what capacity you were working in.
This to me is what it’s all about - breaking down professional boundaries to realise that actually, we all have a lot more in common than we think.
“Let’s create more inclusive, compassionate spaces at university”
If we are to fight the stigma and promote better mental health at university, I think we need to start looking at better ways of working together - less of the ‘them’ and more of the ‘us’.
Let’s create more inclusive, compassionate spaces; ones that acknowledge that everyone - whether you are a student, academic or member of the catering team - has a story to tell. Let’s create universities that are compassionate communities; we’re all human after all.
If you’re feeling ever so slightly intrigued or empowered to find out more, I strongly recommend the following websites: