Well Beings: A Student Mental Health Guide

Space to Breathe is a Sheffield-based social enterprise which helps people to improve their mental health and wellbeing. They offer a variety of services and resources on their website, ranging from free PDFs and meditation videos, to wellbeing boxes and resource packs. Earlier this year, Space to Breathe partnered with the Student Christian Movement to create a practical guide to good mental health. With student mental health being a bigger issue than ever, Jo Edwards from Space to Breathe told us a bit more about ‘Well Beings’ and how it could help young people at university during a pandemic.

This month the BBC reported a significant decline in student mental health, something which has become a far too familiar story in 2020. Back at the beginning of this year, students would not have imagined a year like this one. Those preparing to head off to university for the first time were planning for freshers week, getting to know their course mates and discovering a new city. Instead the reality has been online teaching, staying in your flat and the feeling of being locked in. It’s no surprise then that this report by the BBC talks of loneliness, isolation and increased anxiety.

Earlier this year at Space to Breathe we worked on a wellbeing resource for students, ‘Well Beings’, in partnership with the Student Christian Movement. The idea behind Well Beings wasn’t just to address the rise in mental health challenges amongst students, but also show that mental health is something that we all have and we want to see people thrive, not just survive.

2020 feels like it has been a year of survival. It has been lonely. It has been sad. It has been hard.

When we created Well Beings we used this analogy:

Imagine a Sea Captain and her crew navigating their boat through a storm. Not many of us will have experienced that sort of stress but in your imagination think about all the emotions that must be present as you try to sail through strong winds and turbulent seas.

Your aim is the harbour. If you can get to safe moorings in the protection of a harbour, you’ll be safe. Here you can find care and rest. Here your boat can be protected, meaning that you’ll be able to travel another day. Here you can find a dry place to sleep and eat.

If you’ve ever been out in a storm, think about how it feels to get to shelter and the comforting feeling of being somewhere warm when rain is beating on a window.

At the time we couldn’t imagine the storm that students would face in 2020. Yet here we are in December and we have most certainly navigated through a storm. It will only be too easy for many of you to describe the emotions of going through unexpected and turbulent times and some of you will feel like you’re still long way from that harbour.

Perhaps going home for Christmas will be a harbour for you. A harbour that can provide a safe space for you to talk about your experiences. If that is true of your home or friends in your home town, think about how you can prepare for that. Page 22 of our Well Beings resource gives you a guide for how you can process your emotions with family and friends.

Making sure it’s a safe space is really important, so before you head home we wanted to share this simple technique from Well Beings which will help you to think about who the people are that hold you up and support you:

Moment for the Soul: Spider’s Web

Get hold of a ball of string. Weave the string in and out of a frame – you can use an upside-down table, a tree, wind it around some Tupperware or anything that gives the string some shape. Make a criss-cross pattern that looks a bit like a spider’s web.

Use the web to peg pictures, paper or anything else which represents your friendships – the people who support you.

We all live in webs of inter-connected relationships. Take time to consider the people who hold you up and give you support.

It’s important to talk. We understand that it is vulnerable. Yet it allows our relationships to go deeper as we understand and encourage each other. Find your harbour; take some space to breathe and be revived over Christmas; you are important so make some time to take care of you.

For more techniques and support, whether you are looking after your own wellbeing or would like some tips for supporting someone else, you can download Well Beings for free from our website.

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