YOU ARE NOT ALONE: Chesterfield College students help combat stigma of mental health issues

Beth Cowell, Sigourney Robinson, Karen Wheeler and Abbie Spolding, left to right.
Beth Cowell, Sigourney Robinson, Karen Wheeler and Abbie Spolding, left to right.

Mental illness affects one in four adults and one in ten children and young people.

It can rob victims of their self-esteem, make them feel isolated, afraid or ashamed to confide in others.

Depression and mental illness take a terrible toll. They rob people of their happiness and, too often, their lives. One in four people are likely to suffer from mental health problems but sadly there is still a stigma around these illnesses which stops people talking about them  and getting the help they need. Thats why we have launched a special campaign which aims to raise awareness of the issue, highlight what support is available to help people and let those who are struggling know that you are not alone...

Depression and mental illness take a terrible toll. They rob people of their happiness and, too often, their lives. One in four people are likely to suffer from mental health problems but sadly there is still a stigma around these illnesses which stops people talking about them  and getting the help they need. Thats why we have launched a special campaign which aims to raise awareness of the issue, highlight what support is available to help people and let those who are struggling know that you are not alone...

Maintaining mental health and educating the public are the aims of a collaboration between college students and healthcare professionals which is the first of its kind in Derbyshire.

The initiative will target learners at Chesterfield College next week and be rolled out to the town’s wider community in the spring.

Karen Wheeler, of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The aim of the project is to build resilience in our future generation.

“We’re also looking to combat the stigma around mental health problems and help people to understand what it is like to live with.”

People who are in recovery will be among those contributing to an event at the college on Thursday, November 3.

Karen said: “They will be teaching students how to look after their mental health.

“It’s very empowering for students to be in touch with people with lived experience, they learn how to engage and how to be compassionate.”

All students at the college have been invited to attend the Connect 5 day where they will be encouraged to take steps towards a healthier and more satisfying life.

Karen, who is acting lead occupational therapist for mental health, said: “We’ll be helping them keep mentally well by giving them a bit of a tool kit.”

The activity day is designed around students being aware of the world around them, giving their time or skills to others, investing time in relationships, learning something new and being active.

Just over 130 of the college’s 5,000 full-time and part-time students and 4,000 apprentices, who are work-based learners, self-declare a mental health difficulty at the time of enrolment.

Last year 59 students required safeguarding officer intervention for mental health issues that they were experiencing during their time in college.

The same amount of students experiencing mental health difficulties (sometimes the same people) worked with progress coaches who provided support to enable them to continue with their studies, giving them help to manage anxiety and stress, referring them to the college counsellor and accessing services of external agencies.

The Connect 5 initiative will be rolled out to the public next year.

Karen said: “The students will organise the event and target the general population – target the 
people who are struggling and try to build that resilience.”

The college has worked with representatives of Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, the Public Health Department of Derbyshire County Council and NDVA, which supports health-related voluntary organisations, on the project.

A similar event, attended by more than 200 students and members of the public, was held last year.

One of the contributors said: “Chesterfield College have openly come out to support us, as have their students.

“Both the students and staff are amazing ambassadors.

“Through this partnership network we are building hope and strength to combat everyday issues, making friends, learning trust and responsibility and improving self-esteem so that we can go out and stand tall.”

• For more on this story, see this week’s Derbyshire Times (publication date October 27).

Helplines

The Samaritans provides a free, confidential listening service all day, every day, all year. Whatever you’re going through, you can call the helpline on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. Visit www.samaritans.org.uk for details about the Samaritans. Mind offers information and advice to people suffering from mental health problems. Call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk. Visit www.mind.org.uk for more information about Mind.

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