On World Mental Health Day, we share our tips for looking after your wellbeing and supporting your mental health to ensure you can make the most of your scholarship this year.   

What do we mean by mental health and wellbeing? 

Broadly speaking, it is our sense of who we are, how we feel inside on an emotional level, and the extent to which we can live as we would like to. Our mental health and wellbeing can go through periods of being up and down and can be influenced by a range of factors.

Settling into a new environment 

Studying in a new country is an exciting and fulfilling opportunity but it can also be a daunting prospect with various academic and personal challenges to navigate. If this is the first time you have been in the UK for a prolonged period, it may take a while to adjust to living and studying in a new environment. 

You may be experiencing culture shock, missing home, or feeling isolated, which are all normal reactions to living in a new country for the first time. However, it is important to understand that you can find help if you need it. 

Your university provides resources and staff to support you throughout your research and studies, including counselling and wellbeing services, administrative teams for course queries, and social activities to help you meet other students and form friendships. If you are unsure of which services your university offers, have a look on their website or put the name of your university into this online tool to see which support services are available. 

Getting wellbeing support for students 

During your scholarship, there may be times when you need further support. Postgraduate courses are intensive and academically demanding, and often require you to juggle competing priorities especially during assessment periods. The charity, Student Minds, has developed Student Space – an online platform with information on how to support your wellbeing and deal with practical challenges such as budgeting. It also has student stories and information on how to get one-to-one support by phone, webchat, text message or email. 

Undertaking research for a PhD also comes with a unique set of challenges. Being able to sustain your research question whilst incorporating new material and dealing with setbacks can be a difficult process to manage. The Wellbeing Thesis is an online resource for postgraduate research students that aims to support mental wellbeing. Getting the perspectives of other research students is a good way to understand the challenges and anticipate how you might deal with them. There are lots of other sources of help provided by The Wellbeing Thesis, so we highly recommend exploring the website to find out more. 

Seeking help for mental health challenges 

Sometimes you may feel that you need to speak to someone outside of your university. If you are worried about how you are feeling or are struggling to manage a mental health condition, you should speak to your local doctor who can provide help and advice.  

Charities can provide information to help understand mental health conditions better. The mental health charity, Mind, has guidance on specific conditions such as anxiety and depression and ways to help address and manage the symptoms.  

It is important to remember that you can always speak to someone if you feel that you are struggling. The charity, Samaritans, has a helpline service providing confidential emotional support 24 hours a day.  

If you are concerned about someone else, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. You can follow these tips on having a conversation about mental health but remember that your main role is as a listener. Try to empathise with how the person feels and encourage them to seek professional support or guidance. It may not always seem like it, but just having a conversation can be helpful for people and prompt them to seek further support if they need to. 

If you are looking for further guidance on support, please contact the CSC Welfare Team on welfare@cscuk.org.uk to find out more.

The power of the network: our World Mental Health Day challenge  

Building up a network of friendly contacts can be a good way to maintain social connections and switch off from the day-to-day concerns of your studies and research. Reaching out to fellow Scholars and students at your university is one of the easiest way to do this.  

So, in the next month we challenge you to:  

  1. Join your CSC Regional Network group and a Knowledge Hub 
  2. Share a message with Scholars on social media  
  3. Organise a meet-up with Scholars  
  4. Go to at least one social event organised by your university 
  5. Sign-up for a club or society at your university
  6. Speak to three new people at your university 

Share how you are helping to improve the mental health of others  

Expertise is key to increasing our understanding of mental health and wellbeing, and how it affects people’s lives. At the CSC, we want to support this work and build up stories of how Scholars are using their scholarship to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing across the Commonwealth.   

If your scholarship is helping to address mental health and wellbeing challenges, contact us on engage@cscuk.org.uk to find out how we can share your story!