Society Showcase: Sheffield Mental Health Matters Society

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here at Hype, we think it’s such an important topic to highlight. Students have so many life pressures and stresses, and sometimes our mental health can really get affected. This month we wanted to showcase Sheffield Mental Health Matters Society, an incredible student society that produces campaigns to raise awareness of mental health issues at Sheffield SU

Hype: Hey Sheffield Mental Health Matters Society, it’s great to talk to you! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your society?

Abbie: Our society is a student-led group that raises awareness for the resources, charities, and organisations available in Sheffield to help anyone with their mental health. We are also there as a support network and an identity that students can rely on and speak with, should they need some support. I’m Abbie Yates, the president of MHM. Mental health and the running of this society is hugely important to me because I struggled massively with my mental health in first year. I was at a point where I had struggled for so long that I didn’t think there was anything out there that would help me manage extremely low moods and seriously anxious periods. This all led up to one night when I had a complete mental health crisis and spoke to a mental health team in A&E who pointed me in the right direction and made me realise that change was possible. Our society hopes to offer that possibility of change and hope when students struggle.

Hype: What are the aims of the society?

Abbie: Our society’s aim is to raise awareness of the troubles students face at university which can contribute to poor mental health. It is also to point others in the right direction of mental health services and support, and to network with individuals who are like-minded and reassure them that talking about our mental health and accessing support is a positive experience.

Hype: What kind of events and activities do you run for members and students?

Abbie: We tend to organise small-scale events such as board game nights, quizzes, and sometimes socials at the student union bar on a Thursday (karaoke night)! The events aren’t there to discuss mental health or personal situations unless a member feels as though they want to. It’s just quite a nice community and sometimes knowing people are there for you and can acknowledge your struggles can do the world of good.

Hype: How do you think we can help to combat the stigma that often surrounds mental health issues?

Abbie: I could talk for hours upon hours about the mental health stigma. The stigma around mental health will always be a difficult one to break down. Unfortunately, it’s generational. A lot of my peers have been bought up learning not to discuss their feelings. I think in this society we tend to bottle things up because we are so used to the general consensus that if we can get out of bed, then we can’t be depressed. Or if we can still get some sleep at night, then our anxiety can’t be that bad. Or that if we’re at a ‘safe’ weight, we can’t be classed as having an eating disorder. I know so many friends and loved ones who have avoided accessing help because they feel their problems aren’t “bad enough”. I think that might be one of the most dangerous stigmas around now – not thinking we’re “bad enough”.

I’m really enjoying doctor Alex’s campaign on Instagram at the moment called #postyourpill . Which aims to normalise taking medication for your mental health.

I like to think of it this way: if I had a chest infection, I wouldn’t think twice about taking medication for it, so why do we hold back and think twice about medication for our mental health?

A huge stigma that we were really eager to face as a society is Men’s mental health. But we are essentially hosting a men’s mental health awareness charity football match to raise money for Sheffield Mind. I personally feel that men’s mental health is slowly being destigmatised – but we are nowhere near finished. We have a men’s officer in our society every year, and they help us address men’s mental health in the right way.

Hype: There seems to be a rise in mental health issues among students in recent years – could you talk to us about that?

Abbie: I don’t think students get enough credit. Most first years will go from being virtually spoon-fed at GCSE and A-Level, into a whole new way of learning where staff take a much more “hands-off” approach. The general consensus I got in first year was that I myself and others had no idea what they were doing. I’m studying a healthcare degree and would feel ‘imposter syndrome’ regularly, where I wondered whether the course was right for me. There was no longer the one-to-one teacher feedback if I didn’t do too well on an assignment. It used to be a class of 24, and now students can be in a lecture group of up to 300 people! That can feel really impersonal and I think it’s really easy to get dragged into the ether.

Not only are most people experiencing a new way of being educated, but they are also handling money themselves for the first time, and cooking completely themselves for the first time. They also have more free reign on how they fill their days. Sometimes it can really feel like there’s a lack of routine. That’s why it’s so important to talk about students’ mental health. It’s likely that more people are struggling than you think.


Hype: What advice would you give to any student who may be experiencing mental health issues?

Abbie: My first line of advice would be speak to someone, whether that’s a family member, a friend or a house mate. If you are not confident to speak to someone you know, there are brilliant outlets such as ‘nightline’, which use trained volunteers to listen to anything you would like to talk about. For university of Sheffield students – their number is on the back of your U-card! There are other brilliant organisations out there that have the sole purpose of listening, these include Samaritans and Sheffield helpline. I have found great help from speaking to a GP at the university who can refer you onto mental health services in Sheffield, or discuss other treatment options such as medication. If you are a student in Sheffield, please don’t hesitate to contact us as a society or attend one of our socials. We really hope this shows others that they’re not alone in their current situation, and that many people struggle at university.

You can find Sheffield Mental Health Matters Society’s Instagram page here, where they cover not only the ongoing of their society but also a place where they talk about important issues such as covering topics like SAD and men’s mental health.

Hype: Lastly, can you pinpoint some resources?

Abbie:

  • Apps such as headspace and ‘box breathing’ to help with anxiety are great.
  • Harmless is a brilliant app for self harm.
  • Here is an urgent helpline for people in Sheffield to receive urgent help, you put in your age and adress and it comes up with the best emergency services in the area
  • Doctor Alex has some great stuff on his page
  • The Speakmans

If you need some help, please reach out. There are lots of services that can help! A lot of universities have their own mental health services, and some have nightlines, you can google ‘your university’ student mental health services’ to find them. You can also find out more and seek help using the following links:

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