Thursday, 28 May 2015

What is Atychiphobia?

 - Tsz Ching Cheung

Hello, everyone - it's my first blog post for Student Minds. It's the first time for me to talk openly about my mental health history. I sincerely hope that it might help you understand more about Atychiphobia.

Before I talk about my experiences, let's understand what Atychiphobia is.

According to Wikipedia, Atychiphobia is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure. Individuals with Atychiphobia tend to set excessively high standards for themselves. They believe that if they are not 'successful enough', they will be worthless and unloved. As a result, they feel anxious at any occasions in which they have to be examined, including homework, examinations, interviews, etc. 

Ironically, since they have set such a ridiculously high standard for themselves, it is almost impossible for them to reach the standard. They feel like there is no chance for them to do the task 'perfectly'. They start to get more and more anxious, and finally overwhelmed by the negative emotions. As a result, they choose to procrastinate or even totally give up on the task.

In the academic setting, it can be hard to live with Atychiphobia. We often want to get nothing less than full marks. So if we could only achieve 95 at the moment, we would just give up. It's because if we do not do the task, we would never fail (and never win, of course).

How does it feel to have Atychiphobia? Well, I can try to explain!

Let's imagine that you have to finish an essay. It's extremely difficult, and you have absolutely no clue how to write it.

And you have less than 1 week to finish the essay.

You try to start with the introduction, but everything you write just looks terrible.

"Oh my God, the sentence structure looks awful...."

"Have I used the right words?"

"Should I start with the second paragraph instead...but I don't know what to write! I'm such an idiot!"

"What if the marker finds the introduction not impressive enough? Will I get a low grade because of it? What should I do?"

So you change the words. And you change them again. And again.

But no matter how to modified the sentence, it just looks equally disastrous.

You feel like your chest is being burnt. Your heart rate increases, you breathe faster, and it seems like there is a fire rising in your lungs.

The only thing you could think about is what might happen if you fail this assignment. Your parents no longer love you, your teachers are disappointed, and you lose all your friends at school.

You are overwhelmed with the negative emotions, and you can no longer focus on the task. As a result, you decide to leave the desk.

The same thing happens over and over again.  Every time when you try to do the assignment, you're defeated by the anxiety.

But as time passes, the deadline looms closer and closer.

You feel more and more hopeless. You feel like it is impossible for you to finish the essay. 

The more you procrastinate, the more difficult the task looks.

The more difficult the task looks, the more likely that you'll procrastinate.

Finally, the deadline has arrived, and you haven't even written 1 word.

A lot of people thought Atychiphobia only occurs in the context of examinations or competition, where the performance of participants is directly evaluated. In fact, Atychiphobia could appear anywhere

A person with Atychiphobia can get anxious at lectures because he is worried that he might not behave like a perfect student. He could also get anxious at a gym, as he is afraid that he might not use the equipment perfectly. He might even get anxious at social interaction because he fears that he might not look perfect enough.

It is not uncommon for individuals to not hand in homework, not attend examinations or give up on interviews. Therefore, it can lead to significant consequences.

What makes it worse is that teachers and parents often find it very difficult to understand Atychiphobia. Individuals with Atychiphobia tend to be quite intelligent and hard-working, and usually have demonstrated excellent performances in the past. As you can imagine, teachers can't understand why a straight-A student would suddenly decide to give up on his examination or avoid going to school. They would think, why don't they just do the homework? They are neither stupid nor lazy, so why don't they just try HARDER?

Also, individuals with Atychiphobia might not necessarily demonstrate anxiety in places other than the school or examination centre. In my experience, I did not show extreme emotional responses when I wasn't in school. So when I went to talk with teachers in restaurants, they did not believe that I had any mental illness and I should be able to think myself out of fear and panic. As a result, individuals with Atychiphobia often need to face not only the illness itself, but also the misunderstanding from teachers and parents that can occur.

Finally, I want to share a few tips in taking care of friends and family with Atychiphobia. 

There are five sentences that you should never say to an individual that is suffering from Atychiphobia.

1. "Just relax! You won't die even if you fail!"

Seriously, if someone said this to me four years ago, I would EXPLODE!

2. "Why haven't you finished your homework? The deadline is coming!"

As I have mentioned, procrastination is a common trait of Atychiphobia. They do not procrastinate because they are lazy - they procrastinate because they are anxious. Therefore, it means that they know that they are running out of time, but they just could not do it. They have probably been criticising themselves for days. So do them a favour, don't blame them!

3. "I just want you to finish the homework, it doesn't matter even if you do a terrible job."

But in their mind, 'doing a terrible job' is a lot more horrifying than 'not being able to finish the job'!

4. "Have you thought about the consequences of......"

Yes, they have. They know it more than you do. They just can't do it.

5. "Please, couldn't you just do it for me?"

People with Atychiphobia do care about their family and friends. They really want to satisfy your wants - they just can't do it. Saying this will just make them feel more and more and guilty, and it does nothing but worsen the situation.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

How to Run a Mental Health Conference - Student Minds Cambridge

- An Interview with Student Minds Cambridge

Student Minds Cambridge recently ran their second annual conference on mental health. It was another highly successful event, with five speakers attending and a full audience. We asked the team behind the conference why they decided to set up a mental health conference on campus and how they managed to make it so successful.

What inspired you to set up a mental health conference? What was the background to the initial planning?

Izzy Tilley, Vice-President: 

We really wanted to run a mental health conference this year to follow on from the hugely successful conference run by last year’s Student Minds Cambridge committee, and hopefully to establish this event as an annual thing! Their conference ‘We’re all mad here’ was the first mental health conference ever to be run in Cambridge, and we wanted to make sure that events like these become a regular part of the Cambridge calendar. The dialogue on mental health is just starting to properly open up, and our whole committee was keen to help encourage even more people to come along and find out more about mental health from our diverse panel of speakers. 

Laura-May Nardella, President: 

Our initial planning was a very quick process; as soon as this year’s committee formed, we set a date (giving ourselves only four weeks to plan!) and decided that we were going to run the conference. We knew it was something that people were interested in attending from the success of the first conference so we got stuck in straight away.

How did you successfully get a number of high-profile speakers to the event? 

Izzy Tilley, Vice-President: 

We were lucky to have some great contacts given to us by the previous committee, but we also sent out emails to as many mental health charities and organisations as we could think of, as well as inviting individuals who have spoken out about mental health. Lots of people were interested, and we received more confirmations than we were expecting! If I had to give advice to someone trying to secure high-profile speakers for an event, I would say contact as many people as you can think of, and don’t be afraid to ask even if it is a long-shot! 

What was difficult about organising the conference(s)? What surprised you? 

Laura-May Nardella, President:

I think the most difficult thing was not knowing how many people would turn up. It’s quite difficult to gage from a facebook event exactly how many people will actually come to an event that they’ve clicked ‘going’ to but we worked on the basis that at least half probably would and went with that number. It turns out our expectations were exceeded in the end so we didn’t need to worry but, as is always the case when you want something to be a success, you tend to panic that no one is going to come. In hindsight, we could have made life a bit easier by ticketing the event. Once people have made that kind of commitment, they’re more likely to come. 

I was really surprised by how smoothly the actual conference went though! Getting five speakers from all around the country to the conference on time, setting up projectors and sound systems, remembering speeches- I was so sure something was going to go horribly wrong at the last minute. I think with the amount of effort our committee put into planning and the great communication we had between us and our speakers, our worries were definitely misplaced. 

Izzy Tilley, Vice President: 

Personally I was surprised by how smoothly our organisation of the conference went – there were a few minor hiccoughs regarding the refreshments we wanted to provide afterwards, but apart from that we did not have any real difficulties. We ran on a tight schedule, having only a couple of weeks in which to organise the conference, which was stressful at times, but other than that we didn’t have any problems. It was also a nice surprise to see how many people we contacted were keen to come and talk at the conference – I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the enthusiasm we received was really heartening. 

Lindsay Malone, Head of Events:

Publicity - working out how to get the word out and enthuse people about coming along. Surprising that social media can be so effective compared to old-fashioned posters, although the two work best together.

What aspects of the conference, or the way you advertised it, made it successful? 

Laura-May Nardella, President: 

We mainly advertised online through our twitter, our facebook page and the actual facebook event in the days leading up to the conference. Social media is such a great tool for these kinds of events. We did ask our reps to advertise by word of mouth in their colleges for us as well though. Our university is a bit of a weird bubble where you can’t advertise things too far in advance, otherwise people just don’t turn up. We knew this was the case though so we made sure to heavily advertise during the week of the conference. 

I think that our Facebook event made it clear that there was going to be a great panel line up and giving people the chance to see who was coming to talk and what they were coming to talk about definitely spiked peoples’ interest. 

Student Minds Cambridge's poster advertising the conference

What do you think was the impact of the conference? 

Lindsay Malone, Head of Events:

There was lots more discussion about mental health generally by peers both in the lead up to the conference and afterwards.
People were surprised by some of the speakers taking more unusual angles around mental health and liked this as they could understand a more diverse range of issues.
Even for people who didn't go, we got people talking about mental health a lot more and that spread across all the colleges.
As a result, Student Minds Cambridge became a lot more well known because of the conference through all the publicity we received. It allowed us to make connections with important advocates for talking about mental health which should hopefully help with future events.

Do you have any testimonials from people who attended the conference? 

“The SMC conference was not only perfectly timed in term for a discussion regarding mental health but brought together varied and interesting champions of the mental health cause, shedding light on not only student health but wide and all encompassing areas of this complex topic. It was great to have such a positive discussion about a topic that is so close to all our hearts in Cambridge, led by what is clearly a strong team, working towards a more aware Cambridge. This conference was just one element in the jigsaw of their progressive work so far this term.'”
- Undergraduate student, conference attendee

“I found the variety of speakers really helpful and it meant that it appealed to a wide audience - you had those speaking from a research-focused or economic point of view and then others speaking from a more personal background, such as the Beat woman who had suffered from an ED in the past. It meant that we all took something different from it that was either more personal to us or related to our course of study/ interest.” - Michaela Hine (first year student studying Russian and Spanish)
“I really liked the range of different speakers, not just labelling mental disorders under a blanket, but to show the intricacies of them and people's personal experiences with them and I suppose I took away a lot of questions about the nature of always being driven to work all the time- is it making us better, smarter and more efficient or is it actually lowering quality of life?” - Matt Worssam (Natural Sciences student)
“I found the part about how education generally teaches us to be competitive really interesting - it only then struck me how isolating and unnecessary that was, and how we actually could still do well without treating it as a competition or "guarding our secrets", as it were, even if that's what lecturers etc. make us feel” - Catherine Watts (first year student studying French and German)

Do you have any plans for future conferences?

Laura-May Nardella, President:

I think that we will definitely have some more speaker events in October when the new academic year starts but I hope that the conference will become an annual event that the following SMC committees take on. It is a lot of work to fit in around studying and our terms are incredibly short so a conference is a huge commitment to undertake. Having said that, it’s massively rewarding and we know these kinds of events put mental health back on the agenda every time they happen. 

What would your advice be to anybody looking to organise a mental health conference?

Laura-May Nardella, President: 

My biggest piece of advice would quite simply be: set a date and stick to it. Once you’ve got that date down on paper, you have to start organising things and you are under pressure to get things done within a time limit. Start emailing speakers and as soon as you’ve got your first speaker, find a venue. 

My other piece of advice would be to get creative with your theme or your speakers. Get a diverse panel and cover lots of different issues. If all your speakers are talking about one aspect of mental health, you might not attract as many people to your conference. The more variety you have, the more people you will be able to reach out to!

If you've run a mental health event on campus that's been particularly successful, get in touch with us at We're always excited to share best practice from student groups across the UK to make our collective efforts at promoting student mental health on campus more effective.

My Experience of Depression

- Harriet

I think in a way the last few months have been kind of enlightening as I fully came to terms with this disease and interestingly I found I was embarrassed to put it online for everyone to see. So now it's time to come clean and be truly honest about what's been happening.

I knew I had depression, I think I've had it for many years but now I fully understand what that actually means. I also new that I had an addiction to self harm and for those of you that have read my other posts will know that this isn't the kind of attention seeking, 14 year old 'my life sucks' kind of self harm, but the real, consuming, obsessive kind of addiction that completely surpasses the need for attention and controls my every thought. This is hard to truly admit because I am afraid of what those who know me will think about this, and I suppose in a way I want to explain myself, and maybe I just need the opportunity to see it all in black and white.

Before I met Ryan (now my fiancé) it seemed kind of normal, something that happened when I couldn't cope and it helped me to get rid of the anger and pain that just wouldn't stop circling inside my mind, it got to the point where I didn't even think about it any differently than smoking. Ryan changed that for me. He came from a world that I like to think of as warm, safe and happy, a normal place and that intimidated me a great deal. I always felt that I would never be welcome in that world and if i tried to join it everyone would know that I was a fraud. As the months went on I soon realised that we'd created our own happy, safe little world and in this place I did belong, in fact it was the only place I belonged. With this realisation came an overwhelming happiness that I'd never really known before, I finally felt that my future could be filled with nice things and not darkness. However, when you experience true happiness and escape from the monotony of daily emotion it also exaggerates the sadness as it produces such a vivid contrast. When the bad days came, they crushed me, flattened me as though I'd been deflated and the happiness seemed to disspate like steam. As time went on we both realised that these 'bad days' weren't normal. My addiction wasn't normal, and if I wanted this happy future I was going to have to do something about it.

Depression, as many of you will know, twists, distorts and darkens everything around you. It is a cancerous tumor that swells and seems its pitch black puss all over your eyes so that everything changes and suddenly its hard to tell what's real. My perception was incredibly warped. I would see a situation in such a way that it would seem as though everything was bad and this was inescapable. When someone would tell me that it's not like that I would become confused. How can I be seeing this with my own eyes and it not be real? Entire scenarios would over take my consciousness and they wouldn't even have happened, they would torture me and whisper evil little words inside my mind and before I knew it I wanted to give up and die. When I started to realise that my mind was twisting my perception I began to question every thought, every action, try and decipher what was real or not. This was terrifying because I began to think I was going insane. Ryan stood by me, he held my hand through those days when everything that happened was a direct attack on me and the world was against me. My mind took over so much it even had me questioning if my friends were really my friends, I became so afraid of the world that I would shut down and completely switch myself off. Ryan was slowly teaching me how to stop doing that but I felt like I was getting nowhere.

One night I'd had too much to drink and my mind decided to completely take over and manipulate me to become someone I've never been. That night I said a lot of things that hurt a lot of people and when I sort of realised what was happening I lost it and became frenzied. Things happened that night which made me realise that I needed serious help. I went to the doctors and told them everything and so I began my journey. I started taking anti depressants and I'm still waiting for therapy, its been nearly a month now.

It's really hard because I want more than anything to be normal, to get better, and I suppose naively I thought that I would start getting better pretty quickly. I told myself every day that I would get better and that the pills would help. I was okay for a while after getting to grips with the side effects. But now I realise that actually, I don't feel any better at all.

I've spent alot of this weekend crying and I couldn't even tell you why. I don't feel like me anymore. I feel like a shadow of me, the only time I feel normal is hiding away in bed. I am tired all the time and I'm still so angry about so many things. I am embarrsed to see people at parties because I can't drink and I don't want people to know there's something wrong with me. I don't want them to see through my smiles and laughter and know that I am mentally messed up. All I really do is hide away and I'm afraid that I won't be able to get better. I am circling in an evil tornado and it would let me escape. I hope so much that this won't last. I don't want to think about hurting myself all the time and how much I hate myself. I don't want to be afraid to see people and I don't want to cry anymore.

I don't have the answers, I'm not even sure what the questions are. All I do know is that I want this to end. I'm very lucky because there are a lot of people who offer incredible amounts of support and for that I am eternally grateful. My best friends Ryan and Sonni, my mum, my friends in London, friends at uni, they have all been there when I felt the world caving in and no amount of words can ever express what that means to me. I hope that when I'm better I will be able to give you all something back but until then all I can say is thank you.

One day I'll look back over this time and think 'I made it', I just have to get there. I just have to keep trying because each little bit of good each day has the potential to be a bit bigger with a bit of perseverance. Even when some days it seems impossible I know at the end of it all I won't feel this way anymore. I know I can get better, and I will get better.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if some of you feel that you understand then maybe knowing that someone else feels this way might comfort you. For those of you who know me, I hope you don't think of me differently and maybe my strange behaviour will make more sense.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Mental Health Policy after the General Election

- Sophie Dishman

The aftermath of the general election is on everyone’s lips right now. But mental health isn’t. The nation has been swept with different policies and promises but mental health, although receiving more recognition than in the past, has still not been as prevalent as it should be. With few political parties mentioning mental health in their manifesto, is there anything that can be done to put mental health at the top of the agenda of the new government? 

Mental health has always fallen short of health in any general election and in general, in my opinion. Yet mental health problems affect one in four of us. Mental health difficulties are so prevalent within society that the government should be doing more! They should be providing better funding to mental health services and voluntary organisations, because if we want the nation’s mental health to improve, we simply need the money to do it. Some political parties have pledged more funding in this area, but I still don’t think that it will be on par with the health budget. 

Many of us will either have a mental health difficulty or know someone with a mental health difficulty and the government should recognise this. IN the run up to election, I don’t think mental health was mentioned a lot. It is a niche subject, difficult to debate, even though it affects so many people. It should be ‘up there’ with housing and immigration, but it’s treated as the poor cousin of health. 

Attitudes to mental health still have a long way to go. Mental health stigma still exists. I’ve heard that some mental health difficulties described as the ‘lesser evils’. Politicians are ‘representing the country’, but they aren’t representing everyone’s views.  Those with mental health problems are not ‘crazy’ or ‘scary’ - we are normal people. The government should be ones to advocate this, they should be debunking the myths, along with organisations. 

Mental health difficulties can affect education and employment and I don’t think that this has been reflected in the general election at all. A big thing that should be on the agenda is student mental health. For a lot of people, mental health difficulties begin at student age, and there are lots of challenges unique to the experience of leaving home and going to university which make it important to look after ourselves and get adequate support. Stress, for example, is common, and it can create or even exacerbate existing mental health problems. Being a student is difficult - exams, assignments, balancing work life with social life, jobs, moving away from home…it's by no means a straight road.

Employment may also be difficult to find because of mental health difficulties, some people can even experience discrimination. Finding a job is difficult enough, but with mental health difficulties it can be even harder - anxiety, depression, OCD - it has to be declared and I feel that some think that it isn’t worth it because of the stigma and the fear. People may also struggle to sustain employment because of their mental health difficulties which needs to be addressed and understood by the government and their employers. 

Lastly, the government needs to commit to parity of esteem between mental health and physical health. I need to reiterate this again, because it is so important. If we achieve equality between them, then the things above should fall into place. It is a case of putting mental health on the agenda and making it a top priority. It does not have to be the only top priority, but it needs to be up there!

Post-Election Reflections & Mental Health Awareness Week

- Catriona Duncan

Following Thursday’s General election, I can’t tell if the result caused emotions of delight or anger. But following yesterdays’ confirmation that the former minister for Care and Support Norman Lamb is running for Lib Dem Leadership, I couldn’t help but share my delight. Whatever your political stance, this is good news for the future of mental health in the UK.

In his last position as minister, he was well informed on the shortage of mental health beds, mental health issues in young people etc and was perhaps the most passionate MP on the subject. Why does it all matter? In my mind, at least, he will continue to put mental health at the top of his list, if we back Norman.

If he is elected, he will continue to advocate on mental health issues like he did in his last position. It is of course difficult to know what the future will bring. Nevertheless as Care and Support minister he was a delight to meet in January at a mental health related university event and a genuine person who knew the state of mental health across the NHS. 

While news spreads about his leadership bid, he was advocating that it was MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK. (MHAW). This year, the focus is around mindfulness.

My university has a series of events around mindfulness. To take the definition from ‘Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, without getting stuck in the past or worrying about the future.’

If I’m honest, as a postgraduate this is a bit difficult to do right now. I’ve got my very last lecture of the academic year today, which in itself shows how fast time has flown. Like many, I’ve also got written assignments rather than exams to complete, an MA dissertation to complete, and job applications to complete. It’s a lot of writing……… 24,000 words in fact. 

I will be lying if I’m not daunted by the tasks ahead. But instead of thinking ‘have I done it right’, what grade boundary is it in or simply ‘did I answer the question?’ I have to pinch myself and remember to be mindful of the steep steps ahead, but break each assignment down into manageable chunks. 

It’s so easy to get sucked into the midst of worry surrounding the exams or writing assignments with a mind-set like the one I described above, (I’ve done it and we all do). Yet with my library on campus now open from 8am to midnight over revision period (now) til the end of exams in June, there is a positive and negative to this: it creates a quiet space to revise, but fuels internal anxiety as you sit in the library watching those around you with their heads in their books looking for sources of inspiration or motivation. And those negative thoughts of failure, anxiety can find their way back.

Should you find yourself stuck in a moment of anxiety or with a flurry of negative thoughts, lacking motivation, do one of the following to practice mindfulness:

  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Walk around campus
  • Enjoy the fresh air 
  • Attend one of the mental health awareness events on campus (such as meditation) 
  • Catch up with friends over tea/ coffee/hot chocolate 
  • Take some hints from the exam survival advice given by fellow bloggers in the recent posts

Or do any combination of these to stop the temporary anxiety from overwhelming you. 

Did you notice? I said temporary… that’s just it. Any worries and negative thoughts you have are temporary. Don’t forget too: throughout your academic life thus far, you have passed numerous exams and completed many assignments. 

For now: leave your revision or your writing. Give yourself a break.  Get yourself a Kit Kat and breathe. Remember a healthy mind = productive mind-set = good results.

Good luck. Happy Mental Health Awareness Week.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

What is Mindfulness?

- Sophie Dishman

Mindfulness is simply being aware of something. Think of knowing that a car is coming or that the microwave is going to beep. You are aware of that happening. You can also do this with your thoughts, feelings and actions. Many of us are on ‘automatic’, we don’t think about things, we just ‘do’. Mindfulness is the opposite of this. We ‘manually’ assess something. It allows us to see things more clearly. It can help calm a situation which has many benefits for the body and the mind. 

Mindfulness is something that is being used a lot within mental health. I have anxiety and OCD and I find mindfulness really helpful. If I am aware of an obsessive thought or am aware that I am getting anxious then I can take the best course of option to minimise the effects. It makes me aware of the present moment, which focuses my thinking. 

Mindfulness also means being with the experience. This means actually thinking about an experience. Why is this happening? This way you become more aware of what has caused the situation. This is a great way to get to know what your triggers are. If you know what your triggers are, then you can control the situation and avoid them where possible. 

If you can do both of these things then you can respond in a better way. You can separate your reaction from the experience. It’s training your brain which can help with mental health problems. If you detract yourself away from the situation, then you can control the outcome that it may have. This is one form of mindfulness. 

I use this form of mindfulness in situations that make me feel anxious such as when I have exams, when I’m submitting assignments and in lectures where my trigger words are used. It helps me focus on the situation and helps me to become conditioned to those experiences so that I don’t feel as anxious. It is more difficult for my OCD, but it does help. 

You can also meditate, which is another form of mindfulness. Meditation can come in many forms. You can sit or lie down, I’ve even known people to stand. I try to mediate every day, once or twice - irrespective of the fact that I’m Buddhist. There are many ways to practice mediation, but I have my own way of doing it. I lie on my back, with my hands on my stomach and I focus on my breathing, counting to ten. I use this as a distraction sometimes - especially in exam period. Some people listen to music, but I like to listen to myself breathing. Some people will focus on a noise. do this if I am really anxious and want to keep my thoughts away. 

After practicing these two forms of mindfulness for a while, I’ve found that they benefit me a lot. I know when I need to use them and when I need to use my other self-coping techniques such as listening to music or writing things down. I use these techniques a lot more than the others though, because of their many benefits. I definitely feel more calm and relaxed about a situation and feel that I am able to cope with it better. I’ve recently used meditation to help me with decisions. I can focus on the pro’s and con’s better and feel that I am more focused on the problem, so I can find a solution. I’ve definitely become a better decision maker because of this. I know the best action for me, instead of acting instantly in the moment. 

It’s really important for me to act mindfully. You shouldn’t feel silly for taking a step back from the situation. It’s important to be aware of yourself and this technique can be used with other coping techniques that you have. You won’t look back…you’ll be looking in the present.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Student Minds Volunteering Festival

- Vicky Gall, Volunteer Coordinator at Student Minds

We are hugely excited to be organising the first Student Minds Volunteer Festival!

We have an incredible national network of passionate volunteers who are doing a whole host of different things at their university. From campaigning and events to organising conferences and running peer support groups, we believe that the network has the desire and energy to bring about lots of positive change surrounding the state of student mental health.

There are many different hopes pinned upon this exciting Volunteer Festival. Firstly we think that training and learning from the experiences of other groups if vital. At the Volunteer Festival we will be organising a range of workshops on a wide variety of topics facilitated by members of our Exec committee, mental health professionals, Student Minds team members and others… This will provide the platform for our volunteers to attend workshops of their choice, to learn things that will help promote positive change and to meet others who have used their passion for mental health to direct their career and/or further study.

The second hope we have for the Volunteer Festival is that our national network will have an amazing opportunity to meet others from different university groups, to share thoughts and ideas, build meaningful relationships and to facilitate a greater sense of community throughout the country.

We will also be using this opportunity to celebrate the success of groups this year, share the amazing things that have been going on throughout the network and awarding the Student Minds Awards! If you are a member of a Student Minds affiliated group, why not nominate your group for an award now (deadline: 6pm on 19thJune).

What’s the update?

We have a brilliant location booked! Hogacre common provides a brilliant location to relax and unwind in the great outdoors. Workshops will be in bell tents, there is plenty of space for camping and fingers crossed the weather will be on our side. Access to the pavilion gives us the added bonus of catering facilities (we will be providing all meals!), showers, bathrooms and other creature comforts.

We are in the process of inviting speakers and confirming plans for workshops and will be keeping you updated as more plans fall into place!

In the meantime, please do get in contact if you have any questions at all and sign up for a ticket to join us.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Writing to Combat Anxiety - Pen Heaven

- Pen Heaven

Do you ever feel isolated and detached from others when your anxiety is at its worst? We all need some time alone, but this brief time can easily turn into days and weeks, separating you from people you’d normally see every day. If you find this happening, consider putting pen to paper. Pen Heaven spoke to four bloggers who use writing as a way of dealing with their anxiety.

Keeping Journals

Devoting just a short time every day to chronicling what you’ve been through can have great long-term effects. Buying a dedicated journal can help you to channel your energy and form a routine, such as unwinding at bedtime. You can write as much or as little as you want, and look back over time to see how you’ve dealt with problems in the past and learn from mistakes. This means that the next time problems arise, rather than feeling overwhelmed, you’ll feel more self-aware.

Paige Kylee, who is a lifestyle blogger, shares her thoughts:

“I took to writing as my main source of anxiety relief almost immediately. One of the main problems I experience, as someone with panic disorder, is that I sometimes struggle, when I am anxious, to be rational. Normally, I haven't a single problem sorting through how I am feeling logically, rationally, and reasonably. Being anxious changes that entirely but writing forces me to break everything down into easy to understand parts. It makes me think in terms of a beginning, middle, and end and this process is nothing short of liberating.” 

Creative Writing

If you need time to take your mind off things, consider creative writing as an outlet that you can pour your energy into. Whether you see it as cathartic or just a distraction, you could start with writing poems or stories, drawing out a comic strip, or simply doodling and making up characters. If every time you need a break you spend five minutes creating a new character, you’ll find you’ve created a small host of people to use in a short story. Using these characters in different stories builds your own collection of short fiction and before you know it an exercise to take your mind off things has developed a life of its own. 

Author and poet, Dane Cobain, talks about how poetry has helped him:

“When I was well enough to make it through a full work week, I started making sure that I took proper breaks to try to keep my stress levels down, and so I started writing a series of poems called ‘Anxious Words’ on my lunchtime. That actually inspired me to start memorising my poetry and performing it at open mic nights, but at the time it was all about getting stuff out of my system.” 


Sites like Wordpress and Blogspot make setting up your own blog a breeze, and can be the first step towards creating a conducive atmosphere if you choose to blog about what means most to you. Simply having space that you can dedicate time and energy into the things you love can turn your blog into something of a ‘safe haven’ you can turn to. Regularly blogging can generate a loyal readership that you can get to know through comments and emails. If you choose to blog about your anxiety, you may just find that similar people getting in touch with you to share their stories as well.

Jessica Harquail from Health Fitness Boss has benefited from keeping a blog:

“Since I've been writing my blog, I’ve been more open about my struggles and people reach out to share their stories with me. We try to help each other out and it makes both parties feel like they are understood and are not alone. When it comes to anxiety, feeling like you belong somewhere is everything.” 

You can hear more from the bloggers in this post from the Pen Heaven blog.