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What is Mental Health?

Just like physical health, mental health and wellbeing affects everyone, not just those who are experiencing difficulties. Many different things can affect the state of a person’s mental health, including:

  • Work/Life Balance
  • Diet and Exercise
  • Relationships
  • Major Life Events
  • Financial Pressures
  • Stress

But, as with physical health, there are things we can do to improve our mental wellbeing, such as leading an active life, getting plenty of sleep, and making time to relax. For more tips on ways in which you can improve your mental health, read Mind's 'Five Ways to Wellbeing'.

What is Mental Illness?

All of us will feel stressed, worried or anxious at some point in our lives, but for many people, feelings of mental distress will have a significant impact on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Mental health conditions are extremely common, with around 25% of the population experiencing some form of diagnosable mental illness every year. That means that, in an office of 20 people, around 5 or 6 will experience mental ill-health at some point during every year.

Worried about your mental health?

If you are concerned about your mental health, there are many people you can speak to for help and support, including your GP, your line-manager, and the university's Equality and Diversity team.

The university also provides a free, independent and confidential wellbeing service, provided by Optum and can be accessed by any member of staff experiencing difficulties, including those relating to mental health problems.

The services offered by Optum include:

  • Telephone counselling
  • Face to face counselling
  • Online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Legal information
  • Debt management advice
  • Support and advice for managers

If you are unsure how to start a conversation about your mental health, read Time To Change's guidance on telling people you are experiencing mental health problems.

How do I support someone else experiencing mental health problems?

If you are supporting a friend, student, colleague or loved one experiencing mental health problems, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed or that you don’t know what to say to help. This is common; you do not need to have all the answers or be able to offer solutions to anyone experiencing mental illness. Being worried about someone else’s mental health and not knowing what to do or say can be extremely stressful so it is important that you are also looking after your own mental and emotional wellbeing.

If you are unsure how to start a conversation about someone else’s mental health, you can follow the tips below:

1. Ask yourself: am I in the right frame of mind?

Are you having this conversation for the right reasons? It is often tempting to start a conversation when you are feeling angry or frustrated, but starting a difficult conversation when you are feeling resentful may not be helpful.

2. Pick your moment carefully.

People are usually more receptive to difficult conversations when they are feeling relaxed, so do not bring the issue up for the first time during a row or tense exchange.

3. Be honest

Ask how they are, tell them you’ve noticed a change and that you want to help if you can.

4. Listen

Don’t feel the need to offer advice straight away. Everyone’s experience is unique, so listen carefully to what they tell you and allow them time to respond.

5. Ask questions

This may be the first time they have spoken about how they are feeling, so try to ask open-ended questions to prompt them to speak about their thoughts and feelings.

6. Signpost to resources

You are not expected to have all of the answers to someone else’s problems, but it may help them to direct them to some helpful resources, such as the university’s counselling service, local mental health charities or websites.

7. Maintain contact

Even if your student, colleague, friend or loved one receives professional help, they will still need the support of those around them to reduce any feelings of isolation. You do not have to provide high levels of emotional support, but they may appreciate going for a walk, chatting about everyday things or going for a coffee.

There are many resources available online to help you if you are worried about your own mental health or that of someone else:

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