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Blogs DI Student Ambassadors

Time to Talk Day 2022

Group of students talking

Thursday 3rd February is Time to Talk Day, a campaign collaboratively ran by mental health charities across the UK which actively encourages people to talk about mental health with the aim of tackling the stigma and discrimination surrounding it. 

We all have mental health. Throughout our lives, our mental health will fluctuate, just as our physical health does. We will have times where we juggle the daily stresses of life with little to no issue and recognise when we need to perhaps practice more self-care or seek advice from a friend or family member. But for one in four of us, in any given year, we will experience a mental health condition. It’s during these more difficult times that it can be hard to talk about how we are feeling, whether that is through fear of judgement, feeling isolated or not knowing how to start those all-important conversations.

 

Time to Talk day aims to encourage us all to normalise conversations about mental health. By doing so, we can help those who are struggling to feel as though they can be open about what they are thinking and feeling. This in turn also helps to foster supportive communities where people know how and where to access help or advice should they need it in the future. By talking, we can quite literally save lives.

 

For some of us, starting a conversation about mental health can seem scary. We may not know how to talk to someone who is experiencing a mental illness or feel anxious that we may say the wrong thing. We’ve compiled some tips that we believe can help us start these vital conversations.

 

  1. Make it a part of your normal routine.

Do you and your friends meet up over a coffee? Do you prefer to binge-watch Netflix? Perhaps you play a certain sport together? Whatever it is that you normally do when catching up with friends or family, start a dialogue about mental health while you’re doing it. Talking about mental health doesn’t have to be formal or scripted. Sometimes the best way to encourage people to open up is by taking the time to ask a simple “how are you?” when you’re going about your daily lives. Normalising the conversation helps challenge the taboo around mental health.

 

  1. Listen, don’t judge.

It seems an obvious one, right? But sometimes it can be difficult to listen without judgement. As individuals, we have preconceived ideas and perspectives about the world around us. At the end of the day, it is these very things that make us unique! But it can also mean that sometimes we don’t take the time to listen and empathise with those who are sharing something that is difficult for them. Rather than judging, try and put your personal views to one side when someone is opening up. It can be damaging to invalidate the experiences of someone who is already feeling vulnerable and going through a difficult time.

 

  1. Offer to help them find further support.

For a lot of us, simply having a conversation about what we are going through can ease the burden. But other people will maybe benefit from accessing support from a GP, a helpline, or a charity. We’ve listed some places at the end of this post that can offer specialist advice and support, but you can also find lots more services with a quick online search. Whilst some people are comfortable in going to GP appointments by themselves, offer to go with them (if you also feel comfortable in doing so) or even just help them make a phone call. If the person seeking support chooses to do these things themselves, offer to help them write a list about what they want to say or ask so that they don’t feel as overwhelmed when they reach out to their GP or another service. This also helps in empowering the individual who is seeking support. But respect their decision either way and don’t take control of the situation.

 

  1. If appropriate, discuss and support them in finding ways that promote self-care.

When talking about self-care, it’s important we carefully consider the language we are using. Whilst it may seem fine to share what works for you, respect the fact that what works for us may not work for someone else. Brainstorm ideas together and consider things like taking a walk with a friend; having a coffee over Zoom; exercising; taking a bath; healthy eating; meditation and mindfulness. Remember to work at their pace and encourage them to try different forms of self-care until they find what helps them.

 

  1. Look after yourself.

Having conversations about mental health is

incredibly important and can really help those who are struggling. But sometimes you may be struggling yourself or may even be triggered by what someone else is sharing with you. Do not be ashamed of these feelings – looking after your own mental health is vital too. There are limits to the help you will be able to offer and it’s essential that you understand these. Give yourself time to rest and seek support if you have been triggered. And remember, you are not a medical professional and cannot be expected to be one. Keep these boundaries in mind before starting a conversation.

 

Where to go for extra support:

 

  • Togetherall is a free, anonymous, 24/7 online community available to all Edinburgh Napier University students. Head to https://togetherall.com/en-gb/ to sign up.
  • The Student Counselling & Mental Wellbeing team offers a range of support and advice for students who are experiencing stress, anxiety or other mental health issues due to personal circumstances or academic pressures.
  • Breathing Space is a confidential helpline for anyone who feels overwhelmed and needs someone to listen, open Mon-Thurs 6pm-2am and Fri-Mon 6pm-6am. Telephone: 0800 83 85 87.
  • Nightline is another confidential telephone and instant messaging helpline run by students for students. All volunteers are trained. Open during term time, 8pm to 8am. Telephone: 0131 557 4444. http://www.ednightline.com/
  • Visit the Wellbeing, Support & Inclusion pages on MyNapier for more places to access support and advice.

by Kimberley Sim – Disability Inclusion Student Ambassador

Categories
Blogs DI Student Ambassadors

Blue Monday: January is the Monday of the months.

 

Disability Inclusion Student Ambassador Siobhan Smith writes about Blue Monday and provides some tips about how to manage your Mental Health when things get tough. 

“January is the Monday of the months”. Have you heard this before? The societal idea that: A) Monday’s are inherently bad and B) The entirety of January is much the same. Now, of course I am aware that part of this statement is meant in jest however, we cannot deny that we feel an element of the ability to relate to it and each time we do, it holds more truth. I have been asked to write this blog in relation to a specific day (the 3rd Monday in January to be precise) that has been named as ‘Blue Monday’ – with the definition of being the saddest day of the year. This seems to be doing its rounds with much less implementation of relatable humour and instead more of a serious tone. So, before I go on and complete the task I was actually asked to do (sharing ways to self-manage mental wellbeing), first I want to tackle some myths and share some facts.

‘Blue Monday’ was started by a travel company, with the claim that it was evidence-based from a calculation which involved peoples’ low moods due to post-Christmas debt, failed New Year’s resolutions and the weather. The company’s aim was to use this to promote the sales of holidays, selling them as a way to boost the public’s morale. Although many of us can relate to the drop in mood due to these potential triggers, the so-called ‘calculation’ has been disproved.

Why is this important to share? Everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health. We all experience fluctuations in both, we have good days and bad days. PR stunts such as this one, create a potential trigger in the creation of a bad day that may have otherwise simply have been… a day. No one can tell you what you should feel, or when you should feel it. There is a lot of pressure on us to be happy on our birthdays, to cry at funerals, to be sad on certain anniversaries and be joyful in the face of good news. Sometimes this just isn’t how it is to be, and that is absolutely okay. We, as a society, question ourselves so much. We doubt ourselves and our feelings, we feel invalidated by external inputs and often our emotions are shaped by these pressures.

For some, getting back to ‘normal’ life after the holidays is a boost for their mental health. For others, yes it can be a harder time – for the reasons in the false calculation that birthed the name of the day, and for many others. So, if this is popping up for you and you are feeling fine, good, great, elated, inspired etc… please do not feel any pressure from this named day to question that.

We should be thinking about mental health the whole year through, our own and that of those around us. So whilst days like this, where social media gives us more of a platform to share (and be listened to) about ways to improve our mental well-being, we also have a responsibility to carry on the lessons every day after.

Here are, evidence-based ways, that we can improve our mood… every day of the year!

1. One of the most important things we can do for our mental health is to talk. This can take many forms; talking to a therapist, to a family member, to a friend but it can also be writing in a diary, writing songs, talking into the abyss. Whichever way you find the most comfortable, and the most accessible, for you to talk – go for it!
2. We always hear how exercise can improve our mental health and this can sometimes feel a bit like ‘toxic positivity. Not everyone has the ability to get out and exercise. However, whatever movement you can do, does genuinely have a positive influence (I promise).
3. I would like to finish on this most important note. It is completely normal to have fluctuations in your mood, just as it is normal to have fluctuations in your physical health. However, if you are feeling in a way that is concerning to you (be it low mood, or high mood), then the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for help.

Here are resources, through which you can find advice and support from those more trained to give it than I:

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/
https://www.mind.org.uk

Edinburgh Napier University also has some great resources to help with Mental Wellbeing, including access to TogetherAll and SilverCloud, information can be found here:

https://www.napier.ac.uk/study-with-us/student-life/counselling-and-mental-wellbeing

Contact for emergency mental health support in times of crisis:

Samaritans (24/7): 116 123
SHOUT (a number you can text, 24/7): text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258
Edinburgh Crisis Centre: 0808 801 0414

Categories
Blogs DI Student Ambassadors

Sunflower Lanyards

Author: Kimberley Giles

 

You’ve probably seen when you’re out and about people using sunflower lanyards, but do you know what they are for and what they aim to represent?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the use of the sunflower lanyard became increasingly more common but the scheme itself has been around for quite some time. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower discreetly reflects that the individual wearing it has a hidden disability, providing a subtle indication to those around them that they may need more time, additional support, or some form of assistance. The scheme has been endorsed by several major supermarkets, public transport companies, the NHS, the police, and a growing number of other businesses and venues.

Those who live with invisible disabilities such as mental illness, learning difficulties, hearing or visual impairments, for example, can find day-to-day life difficult but may struggle to ask for help or adjustments. For some individuals, whilst they may not actively need any extra assistance, they may wish for people around them to simply be aware of the fact that they may need extra time or more personal space.

As someone who lives with a hidden disability, I can find it incredibly difficult when I’m out and about, especially if I’m on my own. In my personal situation, I don’t usually require any specific form of additional help and support, however, I do like to make others around me know that I may need more time, I may need to quickly make an exit, or I may just need more space. My hidden disability also means I am unable to wear a face covering and I use the Hidden Sunflower scheme to let those around me know I am medically exempt.

It’s important to note that wearing a sunflower lanyard, or any other face-covering exemption card, is a personal choice and is not required by law. But for me, it allows me to feel that little bit safer knowing that I am less likely to avoid confrontation from others that would only exacerbate my anxiety. Many others use the sunflower lanyard in this way too. Unfortunately, I still receive judgemental looks from some people, and I’ve heard several people comment to those they are with that they disapprove of me not wearing a face mask. I ask on behalf of us with a hidden disability that if you do see someone who is not wearing a face covering and is using the sunflower lanyard that you kindly withhold any negative judgment.

There are lots of ways you can pick up your own lanyard, including for free from the campus iPoints. Next time you’re in the supermarket, ask at customer services too as they often have them. You can also purchase lanyards, exemption cards, and several other sunflower products from https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/shop.html

 

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Call for participants

Call for Participants – Honours Project

Image of raised hands

Hi there,

I am looking for participants to help me with my research into increasing the accessibility of the Edinburgh Napier Accommodation website and application process for individuals with dyslexia. Participants would be asked to participate in two tasks; the first is the Think-aloud protocol, where you will be asked to carry out several tasks on your computer while verbalising your thoughts and actions. The second task is a short interview questioning your experience with the first task. Through analysing the results from both tasks, I aim to deliver a working prototype of a redesigned Edinburgh Napier Accommodation website and application process which improves accessibility for people with dyslexia. Please get in touch with me at the email below if you would like to help out with my honours project.

40213684@live.napier.ac.uk
Thanks, Jack Slater

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Opportunities for Students

Invitation to Lead Scotland Student Focus Group

Lead Scotland is working with Advance HE to carry out some research into the different approaches and initiatives colleges and universities in Scotland are using to improve outcomes and experiences for disabled students. As part of the research, we are interviewing institutions as well as holding some student focus groups. Edinburgh Napier have taken part in the research to talk about the innovative approach they are developing to create a more inclusive learning experience and environment across the whole university. 

We would like to invite any disabled students studying at Edinburgh Napier University to attend an online focus group to talk about inclusive practice as well as the support they have received as a disabled student and how that has made a difference to them. If you would like to take part, please contact Rebecca Scarlett by emailing rscarlett@lead.org.uk to get further information and to register your interest.

Lead Scotland is a small charity supporting disabled people to learn across Scotland. They run the only national disabled students’ helpline in Scotland and use the evidence they receive from the helpline to inform and influence policies affecting disabled learners. Advance HE supports the university and college sector to improve and enhance practice in relation to equality, diversity, and inclusion.”

Categories
Opportunities for Students

Masters Scholarships for Disabled Students – up to £30,000 available

Snowdon Master Scholarships banner. Reads ' Investing in inspirational disabled leaders. Funding up to £30,000 for UK Masters programmes. Global Disability Innovation Hub. The Snowdon Trust'

Snowdon Masters Scholarships 

Successful students will receive up to £15,000 towards their fees and a £15,000 allowance while studying. There are a number of scholarships available, and students can apply for any master’s course or university – applications are open for both National and International Students.

 

Applying 

Find out more and apply: http://bit.ly/3h5f9wa (Deadline: 6th April 2021)

Categories
DI Student Ambassadors

Meet your DI Student Ambassadors

Earlier this year we recruited our first cohort of Disability Inclusion Student Ambassadors and we would like to introduce them to you:

Emma Malins

Image of Emma Malins

Hello, my name is Emma and I am really excited about being an Ambassador for Disability Inclusion. I am currently in my 4th year on the BA film course. I am interested in all things film and media. I am really focused on issues involving disability representation within film and television. I believe strongly that positive disability representation in all forms of life is crucial to creating a better understanding of the true disabled experience. Empowering disabled voices through film and media is a powerful tool to achieve this! Within this ambassador role, I am really excited about having a strong platform to raise the presence of issues surrounding disability and inclusion within the university. I cannot wait to get started and I am really looking forward to getting stuck into the role.

Kimberley Giles

Image of Kimberley Giles

I am Kimberley, a third-year student in the Social Sciences degree programme. I am really looking forward to working as a DI Student Ambassador! I am particularly interested in raising awareness for students living with a mental illness and have been fortunate to previously have worked on various projects with Mind, Cosmopolitan, and the BBC. I applied to become a DI Ambassador as I want to help prospective and current students to realise that having a mental illness or a disability does not have to prevent you from having an enjoyable and successful university experience. My own personal experiences with mental illness mean that I understand some of the difficulties students may have when attending university. I hope to use these experiences to share the voices of students who are also living with a mental health condition.

Asnat Marealle

Image of Asnat Marealle

I am a third-year student at the Business School in the Flexi managed route, I love listening to music in my spare time and visual arts in all its forms. I bring to the team strong project management skills and research skills gained from my course, in addition to social media skills gained from running societies’ accounts, customer service, and administration from previous employment. I am mostly looking forward to learning more about the different disabilities that can be found at Napier and the challenges that students face. I would like to bridge the gap between students and staff to raise awareness and improve the lives of disabled students at university, thus building a positive and welcoming environment at Napier for everyone. In addition, I hope, with fellow DI ambassadors, to create a foundation for the role for future ambassadors.

David Richards

Image of David Richards

Hello, I am David Richards! I am a 1st year in Digital Media and Interaction Design. I am good at making people feel included and just enjoy talking to people, especially in a role like this. What I am looking forward to most in this position is working in a team and collaborating on different projects and opportunities that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Brontë Waddoups

Image of Bronte

My name is Brontë Waddoups and I am a disability inclusion student ambassador. Disability inclusion is something that is personal to me. In my film course, I have worked on making sure every film I work on has subtitles so that I can share them with my deaf aunt and uncle. I am trying to lead by example to encourage others on my course to do the same. I want to encourage people in every course to understand how they can incorporate inclusion in their work and empower the members of our university community to who these efforts will benefit. As a film student, I have experience with editing and sound design. I am very interested in social media and I want to create content that is a tool for the promotion and discussion of important topics. I really hope that my skills can be used by the disability inclusion team.

If you are interested in any of the work of the Student Ambassadors or have any questions for them please send them to Heather Armstrong, Disabled Student Engagement Worker, at h.armstrong@napier.ac.uk.