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University Mental Health Day: Thursday 14 March

Friends embracing each other

“it was really good in terms of the referral time – I was called the next day after filling out a form”

#UniMentalHealthDay is an annual day to get the nation talking about student mental health and working together to make mental health a university-wide priority. No matter who you are, you can take part in this day.

In July 2023, Manchester Mind was approached by the University of Manchester Students’ Union to discuss delivering one-off counselling to students who were connected to the Campaigns Service. It has been identified that most of the young people campaigning have direct lived experience and need mental health support. Due to demands on the counselling service within the university, the wait to see a counsellor was approximately 6 months and long waiting times were having a detrimental impact on the young people in need of support.

By partnership working with universities and other services, we are supporting our three-year strategy is to make it easier for people to ask for help. Here is an insight into this work: 

Farah came for a single session of counselling to talk about the anxiety and the overwhelm she was experiencing in her final year of university. She had not had any counselling previously and was a bit apprehensive about what it would involve. We spoke during the assessment about what a session can be like and answered questions she had to help demystify the process, to reassure her that she wouldn’t be put on the spot or asked a lot of questions, that it was her space to use as she liked.

In the session, Farah talked about feeling a lot of pressure being in her last year of university and studying a difficult course, feeling that everyone else was coping better and she should be achieving more. Farah reflected on finding the lack of routine difficult, and also going through a break-up last year that was hard. We focused on moments when she was feeling overwhelmed and what strategies she might find helpful. We discussed grounding techniques and breathing exercises and the bodily changes these can initiate. We also spoke about ‘testing’ some of those anxious thoughts; how realistic are they and does she need to focus on them. Farah found this helpful and reported that it helped to shift her perspective and feel less worried about certain things.

We reflected on the pressure Farah was putting on herself to achieve and where this pressure comes from, reflections on feeling excited for the world of work and the desire to have more structure, while also feeling daunted about big changes to come. This allowed Farah to validate both these experiences and hold them both in mind. We were careful not to ignore Farah’s worries, but also to let the excitement in too.

Farah expressed that she would like to have counselling with Manchester Mind. She was placed on the waiting list and received her first session within five weeks. During her wait to start counselling we gave her a check-in call to see how she was doing and to confirm where she was on the waiting list.


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