Three minutes to save a lifeEducation | Brighten Youth 25 Jun 2019
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. The state of either could deteriorate at any time, perhaps for a short while, or perhaps for a more protracted period.
Sometimes, it is the environment, rather than the person, that is disabling. Moving to university is a huge change, even for those who have already studied away from home. It is a time when we are constantly negotiating new tasks, in terms of caring for ourselves or engaging with our course.
We spend a lot of time thinking about how we fit – in the university and the wider world. It is a time of personal and social expectation as well as transition.
Over the past two years, the University of Wolverhampton have helping students adjust to both their arrival and exit from the university.
Mental health services here are moving away from a threshold-orientated approach whereby a student would be required to have a diagnosed condition in order to be in receipt of any support.
Instead, they advocate a co-created strategy in which students can invest. By targeting self-harm and suicide, the university hopes to open-up discussions surrounding two of the biggest taboos in mental health and at the same time, offer very practical support to all students. They argue that it isn’t suicide that kills people, it’s the stigma associated with the topic that prevents people from seeking early help.
Suicide, in the opinion of those spearheading the initiative, is not a symptom of illness but of distress.
Those behind the scheme believe that anyone can experience these thoughts, which is why they encourage people to think about who they might call if the situation arose. Safety platforms must be considered now, before the moment of distress, so that safeguards are in place to help a person until the feeling passes. This is something for everyone to consider, but discussing the topic with your child before they go away is always helpful.
The university are in the midst of training all staff to a point where they feel empowered enough to offer comfort to someone contemplating self-harm or suicide. This approach is multi-layered but based on the foundations of being kind, taking time and talking to someone.
More information about the scheme can be found at journals.rcni.com/mental-health-practice/evidence-and-practice/three-minutes-to-save-a-life-addressing-emotional-distress-in-students-to-mitigate-the-risk-of-suicide-mhp.2019.e1290/full.
The scheme is to be commended for a number of reasons. Not only does it encourage essential discussions at key moments in a young person’s life, it fosters a way for all members of the educational community to be involved in an approach to mental wellbeing that is deeply humanizing.
So if you, or your children, are moving away for studies, the scheme may be of use.
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