Published on March 3, 2014 | by Kate Jackson

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Mental health day held to help tackle prejudice

Female student sitting at desk reading

Some students feel they are met with confusion and awkwardness when they try to talk about mental illness [Mary Sommer]

Students from over 40 universities nationwide took part in “mental health day” recently, in hopes to raise awareness about illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.

Although UAL were not among the universities participating in the event on February 26, student services ran a Wellbeing Fair on the same day in the Lower Street Gallery at London College of Communication.

Activities taking place at the fair included a chance to contribute to a mural and to a labyrinth walk, as well as taking part in meditation sessions and gaining the latest news and information on wellbeing.

The event comes after the Huffington Post reported last week that “depressed students are being scared into silence by mental health stigma at University.”

Social stigma

A recent survey run by the Priory Group, one of Britain’s leading researchers into the causes and prevention of mental illness, found that almost half of students who participated felt that their relationships had changed negatively after confiding in friends about suffering from a mental illness, resulting in them feeling unable to speak openly about their health difficulties with their peers, from fear of social stigma.

One UAL student, who wished to remain anonymous, said that her experiences of sharing her diagnosis of clinical depression were often met with confusion and awkwardness, causing her to be reluctant to discuss it in detail with her peers.

“There is such a lack of understanding surrounding mental illness”, she told Arts London News. “We need to stop being so uptight and have some discussions, because there are so many people out there who need to talk about how they are feeling but don’t feel they can out of fear of being judged. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that my friends think differently of me after my diagnosis.”

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that my friends think differently of me after my diagnosis.” UAL student

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Dr David Kingsley said: “Mental health problems are surprisingly common in students, including depression, self-harm, anxiety disorders and eating disorders. As this is often the first time they have been away from home, they can feel isolated and unable to access support for their difficulties.”

He continued: “It is important that universities and colleges help other students to understand mental health issues better, so that students can access the support they need from their peers and their difficulties aren’t compounded by an experience of misunderstanding or prejudice from their friends.”

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