Last year, Exeter Nightline held their first-ever Mental Health Ally Scheme. Held entirely online due to COVID restrictions, Exeter Nightline hosted a number of speakers from all around the world. From talks on perfectionism, race and mental health, resilience, and a discussion panel on ‘misunderstood mental health’, we hosted different events focusing on a variety of mental health-related topics. The event was an all-round success with over 1000 people attending over the week and this year we hope to top that. Here’s what I learned personally from attending last year, and why I will most definitely be attending again this March!
First, I, like many of us, have struggled over the COVID pandemic as the world around us changed in a way that none of us could ever have expected. For me, I went from living a very social and busy life in a uni house with my friends to having to move back home with my family, following the rules set by my parents (which included compulsory attendance at after dinner board games!). It was a big change, made all the worst by the uncertainty of how long this would last. Dr. Brittany Linton gave the first talk of the week addressing the effect of this and how it has impacted mental health. Dr. Linton discussed how it was completely normal to be experiencing emotions such as anxiousness, loneliness and a lack of motivation given the unprecedented (buzzword of the pandemic?) world situation. The most important takeaway from this session that I had personally was finding reassurance in the fact that so many others were experiencing the same emotions as I was.
One of the most meaningful talks in which I learned a huge amount was the ‘Racism and Mental Health’ session, run by Minds of POC. I am always looking for ways in which I can be a better ally to people of colour and this session really gave me an insight into how racism impacts people of colour, with a focus on students in a university setting. In a world where discussions about race are becoming ever more prominent, I felt that this session was very important for me to gain an insight into the impact of racism on mental health. This session really opened my eyes to steps that I can take to become a better ally to people of colour and also how society needs to change, specifically in the way of mental health support for people of colour.
A final session that stood out to me personally was a talk given by Dr Abigail Russell, a lecturer at the University of Exeter, on her experience of living, studying and working with a mental health condition. Dr. Russell’s willingness to share her personal experience really resonated with me. This was due partly to my ability to relate to her story, but also because of her openness and honesty. Discussing issues like struggles with medication and the impact her mental health had on her studies, Dr. Russell’s talk offered an honest account of her own experience as well as things that helped her overcome problems, including getting professional help.
This year’s Mental Health Ally Scheme promises to be just as informative and helpful, and I can’t recommend it enough.
I hope to see you all there!
Written by Katie Parker, Publicity Volunteer
More information on MHAS 2022:
All students and staff are welcome to attend MHAS 2022. For more information, and to sign up for FREE, please head to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mental-health-ally-scheme-2022-exeter-nightline-tickets-277425957507
Make sure you are following us on social media (@exeternightline) to stay up to date - exciting event announcements coming soon!