Mental Health Week raises awareness amongst UCD students

UCD Mental Health Week took place last week with several events running over the course of the five days. Welfare Officer Mícheál Gallagher outlined what he hoped would be achieved by the week-long event: “One, it was to decrease the stigma around Mental Health in UCD and Ireland and second, was to encourage people to talk about their problems. All the studies coming through show that people who share their experiences have better mental health.”One of the main themes of the week was to tackle the issue of suicide. Gallagher hopes that Mental Health week will decrease the stigma around talking about suicide, and that people will be more encouraged to share their feelings, with many students completing SAFE Talk training during the week. “I think it is a really important thing that people have the right skills to actively listen for the signs of suicide, but also have the skills that they can feel comfortable asking someone are they suicidal and also that they have the right connections so that they can keep them safe.”The launch night, which took place last Tuesday, brought in speakers to raise awareness on issues relating to mental health. Fine Gael TD, Jerry Buttimer, spoke about the issues that many LGBT students may face: “We had Jerry Buttimer speaking; he gave a more personal touch to everything because a lot of the surveys coming through show that people from the LGBT community really feel marginalised, and they can experience difficulties with their mental health.”To further help students feel comfortable talking about their personal issues, Gallagher, along with Welfare Crew member Maeve DeSay, launched the ‘Need a Hand’ initiative which provides a number of resources for students looking for support. Gallagher says “there are local supports here in UCD that are relevant to students whether it is issues around sexuality, with things like positive options and rape crises centre or else very relevant mental health issues like depression, eating disorders or even a suicide help line.”Wednesday saw a Life Skills session being held for students to help them, in keeping with the theme of the week, to feel comfortable to talking about their mental health: “Simple life skills to help you live your life, like dealing with stressful situations that might make you anxious or make you feel down and they are really useful and practical.”When looking at Mental Health Week overall, Gallagher says it was an improvement on last year’s campaign. “There is a lot more direction and a lot more objectives with end goals, and I do think that it has been a lot more successful. It is the simple missions like this that really do make a difference.”