Society Showcase: University of Dundee’s Mental Health Society

For our final post under the theme of mental health and wellbeing, we thought it’d be crucial to contact a society whose main goal is to better student’s mental health. Rachel from the University of Dundee’s Mental Health Society, was kind enough to speak to us about how they’re trying to provide support for students during covid.

Hype: Tell me a bit about yourself?

Rachel: I’m studying Digital Interaction and Design at the University of Dundee. I’m 22 years old, a 3rd year, and I’m the president of the Mental Health Society.

Hype: How did you get involved with the Mental Health Society?

Rachel: I got involved with the society last year, as a general member. I went to a few socials and, at the end of the year, the committee came to me and said that I’d be well suited for the role of president! After a little bit of convincing, I took on the role for this academic year.

Hype: Tell me about your role in the society?

Rachel: As a president, I overview my committee members, and make sure everyone is coping well with doing their jobs. Additionally, there are certain restrictions you have as a university society, so we have to make sure to abide by those rules.

Hype: Tell me about your society, what do you get up to?

Rachel: Last year, most of the socials were non-alcoholic, this is due to the students expressing that they didn’t always want activities that were alcohol focused. We did stuff like crafts night or coffee nights. My favourite event from last year which made me fall in love with it was their ‘student union lock in’, which was essentially just a massive sleepover for the society inside the SU. We had different areas to do different activities and one of the best parts was the quiet room. This was a place for people to go to if they felt overwhelmed, for some peace, and you could stay there as long as you liked. That event actually won best social of the year!

I took over this year. Every year we have a theme of what we want to focus on within mental health, and this year we decided that we’d try to combat loneliness. There’s a lot of students who struggle to make friends, and scared to turn up to events if they don’t know people. Unfortunately, all our physical events have been cancelled due to covid, so we had to quickly adapt to online events. So far, we’ve had jewellery making nights and pumpkin carving nights, all via zoom.

We’ve also utilised our social media to the best of our capabilities. Our amazing publicity officer makes some great graphics for us. This year at fresher’s fair, we found that our society is not one that is very ‘clickable’. So we’ve found that putting effort into branding our society as a place that isn’t all about sitting around in a circle and talking about our problems, is crucial to get our real message across – the maintenance of mental health and a nice escape.

Finally, we’ve collaborated with a few charities this year, such as beat, and RASAC (Women’s rape and sexual abuse support service) to give advice and freebies to members of the society. We also aren’t spending a lot of money at the moment, so our budget is going back into those charities to better the community.

We’re not a society that requires a certain skill, we just go and do things to make each other feel ok.

Hype: Do you think that your society having a decent social media presence is helping students feel less alone in this pandemic?

Rachel: Oh hugely. I can’t thank my publicity officer enough. A lot of the time, people have directly messaged our socials seeking advice. Thanks to how quick social media is, we’ve been able to directly signpost individuals to the right people and resources immediately.

Hype: What are your main goals as a society?

Rachel: We signpost if you’re struggling with mental health to the best of our capabilities, but our main interest is that we maintain someone’s happiness and make them feel like they’re welcome.

This year’s goal is to get people to do something else. A lot of people I’ve been speaking to say ‘I have tons of friends but they’ve stayed at home, and now I’m alone’. Even though we can’t go out and do things, we want to supply a way for people to just switch off from the stress of life for an hour.

We also have a just giving page, to raise money for societies that we’ve been working with, and we’d love to reach our goal by Christmas.

Hype: Do you think there needs to be more resources put in place by universities to help students cope with their mental health this academic year?

Rachel: I think that our wellbeing services at the University of Dundee are very underfunded. Regardless of covid, the counselling services for the uni had a huge waiting list, and people had to wait months for appointments. They’re now only doing phone appointments, which I believe makes it even harder, and I think people are feeling lost right now.

The facilities are there, and the counsellors are great, but the lack of physical appointments and physical contact can be very draining for students right now. At the same time, I think they’re probably doing the best they can. The only thing I’d say, is to have more money put into this area, to pay for more counsellors and hopefully reduce the waiting time.

However, if you can’t get help in this way, you can still contact societies like us, or your wellbeing officer, and we can help signpost you to alternative directions. For example, in our society, we have a peer counselling group, which isn’t very well publicised, but it’s there for people who need it.

Hype: What is your advice to students who are struggling at the moment with their mental health?  

Rachel: Please, don’t keep it in. Having any kind of social interaction at all is really important and it can lead into a conversation that will ultimately really boost your mood. Self care is so important, some people are ultimately over studying because they’re trying to cope with online learning, so taking time for yourself is really important.

If you’re struggling, please try and talk to someone, because someone will know the answer and will be able to help you.

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