Would you be surprised if I told you that around one in four people will be affected by negative mental health at some point in their life? As I mentioned previously, the Guardian has an entire section on what they call the mental health crisis going on at UK universities. Most people feel too uncomfortable to talk about it. But that’s something that I’m trying to change. In my previous post on this subject, I discussed some of the services available at the UofG to help PGRs with mental wellbeing; the aim of this post is to explore some alternative strategies for maintaining a healthy state of mind.
Sweat, Forget & Reset
Those who have read my earlier post on running, will know that I’m an advocate of physical activity for managing mental health and, while running might not be your thing, there are plenty of other options for getting physical on campus. Don’t get me wrong, exercise isn’t a cure for all conditions – and severe mental health issues require appropriate treatment – but it can be helpful for some people in managing things like depression and anxiety. The Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA) is active in providing resources for this very reason.
They recently launched the ‘Healthy Body Healthy Mind’ publication, which is packed full of information about mental health issues and preventative measures, with a focus on sports. Regular columns cover topics from smoking cessation to eating disorders and it’s completely free. If you haven’t already signed up, then head on over to Joomag.com where you can subscribe and have new editions sent directy to your inbox.
If you would rather dive right into something that makes you sweat, forget and reset, then you should absolutely take advantage of the UofG sports facilities. The recent introduction of shorter gym classes, in 30 and 45 minute blocks, aims to make it easier for PGRs to fit exercise into their busy schedules. The list of available classes can be found on the GUSA info page.
Those who feel that time is a serious issue might consider taking advantage of the Nextbike Cycle Hire scheme for commuting. The scheme has been made free for students and staff and you can expect a dedicated cycling post in the coming weeks.
However, if you’d rather not ride alone, the GUSA Buddy System is a great way to connect with people. It aims to link people with similar schedules and interests for an initial four week period, in order to facilitate a move toward a healthier lifestyle. Those who are uncomfortable exercising on their own will find that this is the perfect way to ease into an active lifestyle. It’s also a great way to fight back against feelings of isolation.
The GUSA also offers a variety of support groups aimed specifically at helping with mental health problems. For instance, if you have been affected by an eating disorder then the GUSA Starfish Group offers a safe place to talk and receive support from people in a similar situation. More information on these – and other – useful resources from the GUSA can be found on their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds. Go ahead and make contact: you might find something that’s perfect for you.
The Psychological and Counselling Services expressed that isolation is one of the most common issues faced by PGR students at the UofG. They also said that it can help to connect with have people who share similar experiences or worries. That’s why, despite our (sometimes overwhelming) workload, making time for those social connections is extremely important. Personally, I use Twitter and the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag for anything related to my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, but there are lots of opportunities to connect with people at the UofG too.
The Students Representative Council (SRC) has a list of clubs and societies that you can join. With categories ranging from Comedy to Campaigning there is bound to be something that peaks your interest. They also have a dedicated category for clubs related to health and wellbeing.
The Mental Wealth group aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health by promoting a positive platform for discussion on the subject. They hold social events, share stories and resources, and have a Facebook page where you can join in the conversation about raising awareness of mental health issues. Their next event is taking place on the 9th February so you’ve still got time to sign up.
If you are new to Glasgow, or the UK as a whole, you might find that isolation is a bigger problem than you imagined. The SRC International Society aims to provide a fun platform for connecting with people from all walks of life. International Students UK Tours is an organisation founded by students that organises weekly trips through Scotland, usually on Saturdays. It’s a great opportunity to explore Scotland as well as get to know other students.
PGR Health & Wellbeing Working Group
On 28th October 2016 the University of Glasgow held a PGR Wellbeing and Resilience Workshop. The idea was to open up a channel of discussion on the subject of health and wellbeing amongst postgraduate researchers. Although the workshop focused on physical and mental health together, one of its main aims was to identify key concerns around PGR wellbeing. The workshop led to the formation of a University Working Group, tasked with developing an action plan for addressing issues in this area, and they are keen to hear from anyone who would like to make a contribution
If you would like some input into the working group then please contact Elizabeth Adams via email, or drop by her office at Research Strategy and Innovation, University of Glasgow, Room 555, 11 The Square, Glasgow, G12 8QQ. You can also find her on Twitter (@researchdreams) if you want to keep up to date with the latest research development chat.
There is often a stigma associated with mental health but it’s important to remember that an illness, whether visible or not, needs to be addressed in the proper way. I know that not everything I suggested here will be helpful for everyone, but please don’t forget that you are surrounded by people who are both willing and able to help. Don’t be afraid to ask. Let us know in the comments below, or over on Twitter about any useful strategies you use to manage mental health. I hope you’ll join in the conversation.