At the University of Sheffield there is a very special community of students who are working to increase awareness of mental health issues and provide a welcoming environment for students to discuss their mental wellbeing and learn more about self-care. This community is the Mental Health Matters Society (MHM) which is run by a committee of students who are passionate about understanding mental health conditions, promoting awareness, and reducing the stigma around it.
I enjoy going to MHM because of the acceptance it offers conveyed through its welcoming and considerate atmosphere–it becomes an actual ‘safe space’ where I can be entirely myself regardless of how my mental health is on that day. As soon as I step into the room I feel I can breathe easier in an environment which does not require me to divulge my innermost thoughts but to listen and should I wish to speak. Since I started attending back at a biscuit decorating session (started in 2015) I have gained confidence to share my mental ill-health experiences with many others because of the welcome MHM provided from day one.
MHM varies the activities of its weekly meetings so that everyone can feel there is something that interests them. The typical activities that I have encountered whilst attending have been around self-care themes which encourage students to take time for themselves to do things which improve their mental health. There have also been whiteboard campaigns which have encouraged students to connect with how mental health affects them. MHM meetings have a discussion and activity mix which allow people to be as involved as they want and does not pressure them to talk about their personal experiences, which I really appreciated when I first started attending. There have also been speakers from several organizations like Time to Change, Mind, and local Sheffield mental health services/charities, which helped students feel connected to the wider communities in the city, and fundraising events. These have all helped to normalize everyday conversations about mental health and to raise awareness about mental illness.
I spoke to the current President of MHM, Reena Akhtar Staves, to ask what she believes MHM offers for mental health in Sheffield and what she enjoys most about leading the society. Reena told me that it is because MHM provides an open space for discussion without judgement and that it makes her feel that she’s “part of a compassionate, caring community that inspire me [her] to make a difference.” I would completely agree and I have encountered this every time I attend MHM sessions.
What sets MHM apart for me is that it is run by and for young people who, enthusiastically, have a vested interest in working towards a better understanding of mental health difficulties and different ways to get help and support. MHM supports students to use their voices to speak up for what helps their mental wellbeing, and provides a community which encourages others to do the same without isolation.
MHM is a place that allows me to grow in what I’m capable of, to breathe, to feel comforted, and revitalised to tackle the problems surrounding young people’s mental distress. It is my wellbeing home.
If you’d like to find out more about Mental Health Matters meetings or how you can get more involved, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mentalhealthmatterssheffield/?fref=ts and twitter account @ShefUniMHM.
MHM meets every Wednesday during University Term time, 5-6pm. For the location check the Facebook page. Over 18s only.