Mental Health Awareness Week
Monday 10 - Sunday 16 May is Mental Health Awareness week. The theme for this year is: connecting with nature, which feels fitting as throughout the covid-19 pandemic many of us have turned to nature and the greenspaces around us to help boost our wellbeing and look after our mental health.
Mental Health Foundation reports that websites which showed footage from webcams of wildlife saw hits increase by over 2,000 per cent. Wider studies also found that during lockdowns, people not only spent more time in nature but were noticing it more.
Alongside the national theme, as part of our association with ‘This is Me’, an initiative arising from the Lord Mayors Appeal, we are supporting the Green Ribbon Campaign, which aims to raise awareness and end the stigma around mental health in the workplace. We are pleased to be a part of This is Me which is now being taken up by businesses in many regions of the UK, including here in Yorkshire.
As a University, we are committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of colleagues and students at our University, because we know that creating an inclusive and supportive environment, where everyone feels able to be themselves, will allow more people to speak up about ending the stigma of talking about mental health.
Become a University Wellbeing champion
It’s been one year since we launched our University Wellbeing Champions scheme which aims to promote mental health and provide support and signposting across our departments and faculties. These staff members play a key role in supporting and developing a positive and inclusive University culture and working environment for colleagues.
Take part in the Green Ribbon #endthestigma campaign
As part of this year’s activities, and through our association with ‘This is Me Yorkshire’, an initiative which has developed from the Lord Mayors Appeal Charity we are supporting the Green Ribbon campaign, which aims to promote positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and encourage colleagues to share their stories.
You can get involved and raise awareness for mental health and wellbeing by downloading the below items for your University email signature and social media tools.
To get involved via Twitter, follow the hashtags tag #endthestigma #mentalhealthweek and if you are posting messages about how you are helping to end the stigma around mental health, tag the university staff account (@Sheffunistaff) in your tweets and we will retweet/share your messages on positive wellbeing and mental health.
You can also send us your wellbeing photos via Twitter, throughout the week this could be anything from your walking in the park or exploring the wildlife in your back-garden, we want to see how you have been connecting with nature which could inspire others to do the same.
Mental Health Awareness - How to Cope with Panic
Our University Counselling Service and Student Access to Mental Health Support (SAMHS) team have created a short video to help colleagues and students who are anxious about coming back into work on campus.
|See video transcript||
Hello, my name's Dale. This little video is for you. If you've been worried about returning to campus.
Anxiety comes in different forms for different people. But whatever yours looks like, it's probably safe to say that the pandemic hasn't helped it, given that we've had to be so careful and for so long, it's only natural you might have a response to breaking up the threads of your life and returning to work on campus.
We've lived through three lockdowns over the past year. And there's been so much uncertainty for us to deal with.
Coming back onto campus might feel daunting. And while there is no cure for the anxiety, this may bring, there are ways to support yourself when dealing with it.
The first step to managing it is to recognise what it is so that when it happens as it may do, instead of ignoring it, stop letting it build up and take over.
Noticing the first signs of it and naming it, helps to take the emotion and even some of the anxiety out of it and then put you back in control.
So what is anxiety or panic attack?
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times. It's a natural response to a stressful or dangerous situation.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, which can range from mild to severe, and include feelings of worry and fear. Panic is the most severe form of anxiety. You may start to avoid certain situations because you fear they will trigger your anxiety and cause you to feel panic.
The symptoms of panic anxiety, a racing heart or shortness of breath, and maybe a tightness in your chest or increased sweating, clammy hands, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, shaking or trembling. And you may feel nauseous. You might also feel an impulse to run away, experience a fear of dying or being out of control. Things might feel a bit unreal.
So it was happening to you.
Your body is reacting to a perceived threat. As though you need to escape from a physical danger and so it produces large quantities of adrenaline to make your heartbeat faster, shorten your breath and make your muscles tense up to get you ready to react. Sometimes it happens in settings that are obvious like in a crowd or meeting students and colleagues for the first time. And it can seem very frightening, especially if you can't see a reason for it.
We can even begin to feel anxious at the thought of feeling anxious. Panic at the thought of a panic attack. So what can you do?
If you notice the familiar symptoms of anxiety or panic, and you are in a position to leave the room, office, lab, lecture theatre... taking a walk on campus to a shop or somewhere quiet like the park can help to make you feel calmer.
You can try to slow your breathing down by focusing on your out-breath rather than your in-breath. As if you're sighing for two or three minutes. You can ground yourself but pressing your feet firmly to the floor. And if you're sitting lean against the seat back and bring your attention to your feet and legs, letting them feel heavy.
You can look around you and notice details of the objects around you, like the carpet or the picture on the wall, to become more focused on what's happening outside of you. Rather than internally.
You can do repetitive activity, like counting backwards from 100, or clenching and unclenching your fists 100 times.
Importantly, be prepared to write out the sensations as they usually only last a few minutes and they're not dangerous.
Immediately after it, try to talk to someone about everyday things to make life feel as normal as possible, do something enjoyable like treat yourself to a snack or meal. Go for a walk in the park.
Remind yourself of things that you are good at, as this can help you connect to your inner strength. But make a decision about repeating the activity, that caused you to feel anxious or to have the panic attack, to make it feel less daunting next time.
Afterwards, it can help to regularly practise body relaxation and breathing techniques so that they come naturally when you need them.
Make positive self statements like I can calm myself or I can cope with this. This will pass.
Write down your worries as this can help to get to the root of them. And you can then make a plan to resolve the things you can and perhaps accept the things you can't.
Consider speaking to a counsellor to explore the context in which the panic attacks occur because it's sometimes associated with more general stress, loss or unexpressed feelings. Take charge of practical and helpful things like limiting your intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.
But remember, a panic attack will not cause you to stop breathing or suffocate. A panic attack can cause you to faint. You will not go crazy during a panic attack.
It cannot cause you to lose control of yourself. It's not dangerous, it's not a heart attack. And it will normally stop off to two or three minutes.
I hope this helps.
Looking after your own mental health
If you need someone to talk to about your own mental health, the University has a range of support available to colleagues, that can be accessed through our Wellbeing webpages.
If you are struggling with your wellbeing or workload please speak to your manager or call the confidential staff helpline, Health Assured on 0800 028 1947 where an independent trained advisers are available to help 24/7.
Health Assured also has an app called, “My Healthy Advantage” which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play using the following employer code when prompted: MHA000149.
Webinar: Overcoming anxiety in times of change
Thursday 27 May, 11am - 12.30pm
Open to all University staff
Sheffield IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), an NHS service, are delivering a 'Life After Lockdown' online session for University staff. As restrictions lift, it's really important to look after our personal wellbeing and practice self-care.
What will the session cover?
- Advice and support on understanding common emotional responses to change
- Advice on calming down your body
- Support on finding a new routine and feel more confident in returning to your usual activities
- The session will be delivered in a lecture style format. You will not be expected to share thoughts or feelings in these sessions but you are welcome to ask questions or leave comments in the chat section if you wish to.
If you are interested in joining the session please can register for the online session.
Please note: IAPT have a duty of care to all those who attend the session, please make sure that you fill in the form with your personal details correctly including name, DOB and address. Your details will be added to IAPT's system this is so they can contact you if there are any concerns.
Our University pledge on mental health and wellbeing
Development: University-wide Mental Health Strategy
Our Student Support Services and HR are running a series of discovery workshops with colleagues to begin to draw out ideas to inform the development of a joint student and staff University Mental Health Strategy.
The joint strategy will allow us to take a One University approach to supporting mental health in the working and learning environment, incorporating key objectives of the Student Minds University Mental Health Charter, the MIND Mentally Healthy Universities Pilot Programme and the UUK Stepchange Framework.
Mental Health at Work Commitment
We are proud to be part of the Mental Health at Work Commitment and we are committed to following the six mental health standards to improve and support the mental health and positive wellbeing of our staff.
MIND Mentally Healthy Universities Programme
We are also working in partnership with Mind to participate in their Mentally Healthy Universities Pilot Programme, with the aim of identifying strategies, interventions and cultural change that shifts the focus of mental health support towards prevention and early intervention.