University is a brilliant time for students to learn new things, socialise and become more independent. But it doesn’t come without its set of struggles. These struggles can include anything from rising prices of rent, exam stress, homesickness and much more. The Union of Students of Ireland (USI) visited colleges and universities such as Maynooth University, National University of Ireland Galway and Technological University Dublin Blanchardstown from Monday the 14th of October to launch their Re:Charge campaign, aiming to promote student mental health and get students thinking about ways that they can mind their mental health. The annual campaign was funded by the HSE and its focus was healthy eating, physical activity and talking to someone when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Students had the opportunity to visit the Re:Charge stand at their university and chat to members of the USI and their university’s welfare crew. The USI brought a big sheet of paper to put at the stand where students could write down what they do to recharge. Students were given the opportunity to read the responses of others and to learn coping mechanisms and strategies. It was a good way for students to gather more ideas on how to mind themselves in times of stress and on a day to day basis. Examples of student responses included: reading, exercising, having a cup of tea, hanging out with friends and painting.
Available at the Re:Charge stand were additional resources to help students manage stress. Students could help themselves to fruit to kickstart their healthy eating. There was also a raffle for students to enter free of charge to win a USI Re:Charge water bottle or a USI Re:Charge notebook. These prizes aimed to help students with their mental wellbeing. The USI suggested that students use the notebook to journal about their day and their thought processes. The water bottle was intended to remind them to stay hydrated throughout their busy days to keep well and energetic.
The Re:Charge campaign reminded students of the supports that are available to them both within their universities and beyond. Students learned about university medical and counselling support, as well as sports clubs to keep active during their studies. Students were made aware of Niteline and Samaritans and were given leaflets, pens and badges from these organisations. Members of Samaritans came to some of the universities to meet students face to face and explain the work they do. Niteline is a confidential, anonymous and non judgemental helpline run by students for students from 9pm-2:30am every day of the college term. Each volunteer is carefully selected and trained and ready to listen to students who want to talk about their mental health. The Samaritans is a 24/7 helpline to try to decrease the amount of isolation and disconnection people feel by being a source of support and a non judgemental listening ear for everybody.
Lorna Fitzpatrick, the President of the USI stated: “We are delighted to launch our Re:Charge roadshow for the second year running. Mental health is an issue close to every student’s heart and it is vitally important that students are made aware of the services available to them when they are not feeling their best.” She highlighted the importance of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. The USI National Report on Student Mental Health in Third Level Education has shown that students have been struggling with their mental health. According to the report, 38.4% of students have experienced anxiety, 29.9% have experienced depression and 17.3% have experienced stress.
Mental health is real and important. It exists everywhere and is something that everyone has. Universities and the USI are doing their best to help students manage their mental health at university. The Re:Charge campaign is important because it teaches students ways to deal with feelings of overwhelm and how to look after themselves while at university. It also gives students a chance to learn from each other and share ideas. It is high time we stepped up to accept the challenge to support our fellow students. Support can consist of listening non judgmentally and offering a helping hand to someone who is struggling with something even if it seems really small to you. The Re:Charge campaign shows students that they are not alone and have people and supports to turn to when they are feeling overwhelmed.
If you feel your mental health is impacted, don’t hesitate to reach out to the organisations mentioned above! Find resources and information on the Re:Charge campaign here.
Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!