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October 14, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Salient Recaps: Mental Health Awareness Week

With just a few weeks until the start of exams, students have been encouraged to take care of their mental health with events on campus.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, for which Can Do and VUWSA organised on-campus events alongside Student Health. The week featured a Wellbeing Expo, held all week in the Hub of the Kelburn Campus. The aim of the Expo was to teach students ways to improve their own wellbeing. Also held were a Healthy Lifestyles Expo on Tuesday and Free Soup for the Soul on Thursday.

The theme of the week this year was ‘connect’, chosen to emphasise the importance of connecting with the people around you in order to improve your wellbeing, and maintain positive mental health. The aim of Mental Health Awareness Week was to raise awareness, show the prevalence of mental-health issues, and to teach people ways to improve their own states of mind.

VUWSA Vice-President (Welfare) Rick Zwaan said the week had been successful, and had engaged many students. He suggested mental health was as much external as internal, emphasising the importance of connecting with others.

“Your key ally for mental wellness is maintaining good connections with your friends, flatmates and family,” said Zwaan.

VUWSA President Rory McCourt echoed Zwaan’s sentiments, adding that VUWSA has been working to bring counselling waiting-times down and raise awareness for students’ mental health.

“Students are incredibly stressed in the 21st century. This week is about making that situation better, and looking at the support we all provide each other—including just to friends and family,” said McCourt.

The week also outlined the services on campus available to students, such as Counselling Services, Financial Support and Advice, and Student Learning Support. A food bank and free bread service, both run by VUWSA, can also help students through tough times.

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As part of Mental Health Week, VUWSA ran a mental-health survey. The survey had 211 respondents, three-quarters of whom were female. Only preliminary results from the survey were available at the time Salient went to print:

  • 41 per cent of students said their usual level of stress during the academic year was “high”, and a further ten per cent classed their usual level of stress as “very high”. Less than ten per cent of students had “low” stress (eight per cent) or “very low” stress (one per cent).

  • Assignments and exams were ranked as the highest source of stress, followed by money, work, health issues, and flatting. Family, friends and relationships were least stressful.

  • 77 per cent of respondents said high expectations for good grades were an aspect of university life they found very stressful. The time pressures of study (60 per cent) and pressure to find a job (58 per cent) ranked second and third for very stressful elements of university, respectively.

  • Most students relied on friends and family to discuss mental health.

  • Stressed students most commonly felt unmotivated (72 per cent) or depressed (61 per cent). Around half of respondents were discouraged from completing their study by stress. One per cent of students reported feeling happy when stressed, and five per cent felt excited.

  • Of the 18 per cent of students who reported having a mental-health issue when they enrolled, over 80 per cent did not declare that issue to the University or Hall staff. More than one in five students who didn’t arrive with a mental-health issue had developed one since arriving at University.

  • The top suggestion for what could reduce stress levels was not having to work while studying.

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