Welcome to Manchester Open Mind Network

Before I begin, I feel I have a duty to tell all of you that I am not a writer, and this is a completely new experience or project for me, so bear with me. I just have a passion for mental health, and want to improve others well-being, so I will be putting out weekly blog posts hoping that my words or the words of others could potentially reach out to someone — either someone who is suffering, or anyone else who I manage to educate in some way. I am not here to advise, and I don’t think I even know how to be motivational, but that is something I hope to learn; and through the weeks hopefully my writing and thinking will become more coherent.

Mental health may not be something many consider in day to day life, whereas for others it’s at the forefront of their thinking; either way all of us have it. Mental health does not just mean something negative like depression, but our general well-being and ability to function in society. It struck many of us at Open Mind Network, when at the University of Manchester’s’ freshers fair, that when many students approached us and we asked them if they’d thought about mental health, a very common answer was in fact that no, they hadn’t really thought about it very much. Now this is astounding as we all have mental health, and 1 in 3 students go on to develop some kind of mental health condition at some point.

So, this suggests that there isn’t very much discussion about mental health, so is it any wonder that the number of students experiencing difficulties is so high? If students — or anyone for that matter — have never thought about the existence of their health in a mental capacity, then of course it will be so much harder to improve a potentially declining level of mental health. In University, students are coping with many difficult situations for the first time, and may not even know that it’s ok to have bad days, and have not yet developed the tools for coping with these bad days. Especially as they are most likely away for the first time from a support system, in a new environment, and with many varying vices at their disposal, away from the prying eyes of parents … and thus the negative cycles begin.

As far as I can see, the University of Manchester does have some fantastic support systems in place for students, such as Nightline and the Counselling Service which do provide vital help to students in need — having accessed the latter myself. However, also having been in this position myself, I know just how difficult it can be to reach out when you are in that dark place. The thought of making an appointment with the counselling service was, quite frankly terrifying. Even talking over the phone could be daunting. I didn’t want to admit that I had a problem to someone I had had no previous contact with, who I perceived to be an authority figure not a friend, and yet I found myself having to explain my story to a long chain of people who had never met me previously. I can see why many students don’t want to go through that kind of ordeal and add to their stress. That’s where we come in.

Manchester Open Mind Network was set up by Manchester Students, ALL of whom have experienced problems with poor mental health in some capacity. The founding members knew that what was needed was an interim support network of peers to aid students experiencing mental health difficulties. We aim to provide a friendly non-judgemental environment to access support, talk about issues and learn any tips on how to improve their mental health and well-being. In addition to this, we also wish to educate everyone about mental health as an issue, whether it’s for personal health and well-being, or for reducing stigma. We think that what is missing is this continuity of support and we will be aiming to provide this.

We are extremely passionate, but we are very new, and for now we are still building the tools necessary to provide all the things we wish to provide. I encourage anyone who has an interest or an idea to get involved, whether you have suffered in the past, know someone who has, or are just interested, all people are welcome.

Well, I got through that without rambling too much I think. Hopefully I’ve sparked some interest. Luckily you won’t have to hear too much from me though. Following this I’m going to post a wonderful list of tips for dealing with anxiety from the wonderful Ruth Lyons; a friend who has mostly overcome anxiety, but still struggles from time to time. So, stay tuned for that!

Laura, Open Mind Network xxx