University Mental Health Day is today (1st of March). This year’s theme is CommUNIty. There is a long and well established link between mental health and community. A sense of belonging, social support and your environment can directly affect your mental wellbeing.
Thinking about this theme really resonates with many people’s experiences as a student at University. As a fresher I wandered through the normal clubs and societies open day’s signing up to everything and anything, did I really need to join the DJ society? Probably not! I had a small group of friends from home who studied at the same University and met a few people through my course. All in all not a bad group of people to have around me, but did I feel like I belonged in this community or that I was contributing to this new environment? I don’t think I really felt a sense of pride in my University or part of the cohort until I joined the sailing club. Here I did not know anyone prior to joining, I had a measly level 1 or 2 certificate – there are children who are better sailors then me! No joke they were on my course with me…. it was quite embarrassing. In this club I got involved in training, racing at events and of course the socials. This led me to take part in racing events all over Ireland, meet students from other Universities and even reluctantly take up the role as club secretary in my final year. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into a sports club (I was the least sporty person I know) provided me with a greater sense of belonging and opened me up to a new social network and environment that I really benefited from. It wasn’t always plain sailing for me in this club but overall it was a really enjoyable experience and I am glad that I became involved.
However not everyone joins a club at University, some people gain a rich sense of community and belonging from other areas of the University. I first noticed this as a member of staff when I was waiting in line to pay for my food at a canteen in my previous university. The lady on the till was chatting to a student whose condition can sometimes make social situations difficult. I observed how happy he looked during this interaction, they were both laughing discussing his choice of food, as it was different from his usual choices (No hash browns today!). After mentioning this casually to a colleague she explained that this was daily occurrence. This set me thinking about all the different connections and interactions that can occur in our community and how it’s not just the big things that can give us a sense of belonging, combat isolation and contribute to the health of our community.
So this leaves me to question what contributed to your sense of CommUNIty at University? And how can you contribute to our commUNIty now?
Come find out more about the community here at City for both staff and students in the Pavilion 11:30am-1:30pm on the 1st of March.