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Catch up on Cornwall Campus: Mental Health Awareness Week

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Annabel Soper’s latest column from Cornwall details simple ways to beat stress in Falmouth and the surrounding area. She also describes the help available to students in Cornwall and urges us all to get talking about mental wellbeing…

It’s mental health awareness week now and I am not sure what to write. How do deal with depression in Cornwall? How the British culture needs a wakeup call and learn to talk about how they feel? Or I could just stick to commenting on the awful weather we are having recently. But really, it is such bad weather….

Sunnier, less stressful times at the beach...Image Credit: Falmouth Beach.co.uk
Sunnier, less stressful times at the beach…Image Credit: Falmouth Beach.co.uk

Mental health is so important. We live in an age in which keeping our bodies fit and eating well are considered to be among our top priorities, though we hardly discuss looking after our mental health.

Why is that? Well for starters it is uncomfortable. I have lived in England long enough to know that as soon as you mention ‘mental health’, ‘depression’ or dare I write it,  ‘suicide’ , the atmosphere changes. It becomes tense, uncomfortable. You are not sure what to say in case you say the ‘wrong’ thing or make it worse.

What a great idea to have a week at university dedicated to opening up those awkward conversations and get educated on these tough issues. I know from experience how hard it is to start talking to someone about it, and this week provides ideal opportunities for that. I thought I would share some of the great opportunities Cornwall offers that are popular among the students that can really help mental health.

It is stated time and time again, that exercise is so important for your mental health. Falmouth is famous for its many hills and our campus is at the top of one (Editorial note: it’s good to know our fellow students in Cornwall suffer too). Cycling around the town is a great way to get exercise, save money on the buses and catch the spectacular views of the Cornish coast.

When deadlines start approaching and stress levels are high in our house, even something as simple as taking a walk down to the beach and following the coastal footpath for half an hour can do a huge amount of good. Just having a change of scene and breathing fresh air can be all it takes to get back on track.

Eating healthy is another great way of treating your mental wellbeing seriously, and it is totally affordable for student so no excuses! Falmouth is blessed with having more independent, local shops than large chains, so it is popular to buy all locally grown foods, and do your own cooking, rather than opt for ready meals.

Student Support Services are available in The Compass, in The Exchange on the Cornwall Campus Image Credit: FX Plus
Student Support Services are available in The Compass, in The Exchange on the Cornwall Campus Image Credit: FX Plus

Cooking is great for several reasons – A) it generally makes you feel like a sophisticated adult and gives you something to write home about. B) It is social – I am not saying you have to share your food, that might be pushing it, but being in the kitchen and producing yummy smells will inevitably draw you housemates from their rooms, and spend time together. C) It is a lot better for you, and trust me – it doesn’t have to be really complicated and take hours!

The last point I want to write about is how the university can really help with mental health. On our campus there are four councillors who are available for either drop-in sessions that last around 15 minutes, or an appointment for an hour. I’ve known people to go alone or with a friend, just to talk over either a particular issue at that moment, or just to vent about general anxieties.

Going to counselling doesn’t make you crazy. It means you are rational and are taking the initiative to ask for help. There are also Quiet Rooms around campus that are always available to go into, that mean you can take some time out from the library and relax on a sofa for a while in the day.

I am sure your campus has councillors, outside space to take a walk and hopefully some quiet rooms. But most importantly during this week – get educated. Let’s stop this stigma around mental illnesses and learn what they actually are and what it means. Maybe you could take the first step and ask someone about it, or talk to a friend you know is struggling.  There is a lot to learn about mental illness, so let’s not be British about this, let’s talk to each other.

Annabel Soper

See what’s on in Mental Health Awareness Week here.

You can read Annabel’s previous columns about life on Cornwall Campus here, herehere and here.  

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