Talking about Mental Health in the University Community
Content warning: Brief mentions of Suicide
A university is a people organisation, those people being students, staff, alumni and friends. Ideally, a university should have a strong sense of community. There will be many communities, some small and some large, many overlapping (best friends, classmates, house-mates, sports team or association, programme, School, College, matriculation year, graduation year etc). Everyone should belong somewhere.
So why is it that universities can be very lonely places, where isolation can contribute to adverse mental health outcomes and, very sadly, sometimes to suicides?
There is an analogy with London: a huge city which is densely packed with people and yet said to be one of the loneliest cities in the world (1). How is this possible? If the same is potentially true at the University of Edinburgh, what can we do about this phenomenon?
It is probably a consequence of human nature: maybe we are all too busy, preoccupied with our own worries and needs, respectful of other people’s privacy, embarrassed to make the first move or worried about being shunned for being forward in doing so.
“To ask for help is not a sign of weakness,
it is a sign of strength”
My appeal to everyone in our University community is simple. If you notice someone seeming isolated, lonely or sad: speak to them, offer them the hand of friendship.
If you yourself feel lonely, isolated, scared or even suicidal: talk to someone about it. If you’re a student at the University of Edinburgh and no-one else seems to be listening, send me an e-mail! To ask for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.
Our University has all the ingredients to be a caring, engaged community and in many areas it already is one. However, we know that there are gaps and we know that we can all contribute to filling those gaps. Let’s work together to make it an even more friendly and secure place with an enduring sense of community.
The Edinburgh University Students’ Association is promoting the tagline We are Edinburgh. I like that! Organisations such as [The Ampersand Project] are working hard to improve the sense of community here at the University of Edinburgh.
We all want the same thing: for this to be a people-focused university driven by a strong sense of values, championing inclusiveness, friendship, mutual support, pride in our community and committed to maintaining it here in Edinburgh, and also further afield for those who have left us geographically but not in spirit. We are Edinburgh!