Mental Health

Too often, estranged students work so hard to get to university that they neglect their mental health and general wellbeing to focus on achieving.

Estranged students tend to rely on their own inner resilience to get them through tough times, and many have confessed to finding it difficult to ask for help. When it becomes too difficult to deal with life alone, many students don't know how express what they are feeling, due to shame and stigma surrounding estrangement.

This can quickly lead to isolation, which over 70% of estranged students report experiencing at least once during their experience. All of this can culminate into a very difficult situation, which can negatively impact a student's quality of life and university experience.

One way that we have seen universities combat this, is by assisting students in setting up support groups, which are safe spaces for students to disclose and discuss personal issues where they feel valuable and understood.

A great example of a successful student support group is the Ohana Society at Manchester Metropolitan University. The Ohana Society was started by an estranged student who had a desire to meet new people in a similar situation. By developing this society with the help of a staff member, estranged students at MMU were able to connect and support each other through their university experiences.

One 2nd year student at a prestigious university without visible support for estranged students says: "My circumstances and estrangement have really affected my mental health. I ignored my wellbeing for a long time in order to just pull through university, but eventually everything took a toll on me. I ended up breaking down due to the stress of handling everything alone, and I had to resit my first year. Now I'm doing things the right way and talking to a counsellor, everything is getting better."

The Pledge recognises the importance of mental health and wellbeing. We ask universities to consider setting up facilitated peer support groups, which are run by a trained member or staff as a way of providing tailored support to estranged students.

One of the first institutions to commit to the pledge, the University of Wolverhampton has committed to improving and extending their mental health and wellbeing services for all students, to break down the stigma surrounding mental health in their university community. Kirsty Dorward says: "Stigma blocks any in road for us to talk about or be receptive to others or our own distress. We recognise that many students, estranged or not, come to university to 're write the script' of their lives, and put some of their past behind them. We aim to be a welcoming university, one that promotes a sense of "family" and belonging, whilst striking the balance of empowering and enabling individuals to be independent and very much the shapers of their own destiny."

 

 

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