University events are a great way to get students talking about mental health, and raise awareness of the support available both within the university and beyond. By giving people the opportunity to talk about their mental health, you provide a powerful platform for sharing experiences and encouraging those who may be struggling to feel able to reach out.
Whether you're a student or a staff member, you are welcome to use any of the ideas below to run your own mental health event. Staff and students can both organise great events, so consider teaming up to spread awareness of support available. Remember to publicise your event far in advance – it is never too early to start planning! Let us know how it went – tweet @UMHANUK.
What event shall I run?
How can your event contribute to the discussion of student mental health?
Think about the aims of your event. Perhaps you’re aiming to fundraise, raise awareness, offer a social opportunity for students, or a chance to share experiences. Perhaps your aims are a combination of these.
A great event will tackle a key issue and fulfil an aim. Once you’ve identified key issue(s) and aim(s), you can build your event around these core ideas. See below for a list of event suggestions.
As a staff member or student, there is a lot you can do to run a mental health awareness event.
Host a stand where students and staff can collect free materials about mental wellbeing. This is a great opportunity for students to talk to Mental Health Advisers about mental wellbeing and the services provided. Contact local and national charities and the NHS for leaflets.
You will need: table – poster – leaflets – freebies such as sweets or stressballs – student support staff volunteers – student volunteer
wellbeing mot / checkups
In addition to hosting a stand, you might run wellbeing MOTs, where students and staff can check out what “tune-ups” could be made to their own wellbeing. If you are a UMHAN member, consider using resources from the student section of our library.
You will need: table – poster – mental health resources – student support staff – activities - freebies
Another way to expand on a wellbeing stall, if staffing and budgets allow, is to run a Relaxation Station where students can spend time between classes. Provide craft activities, board games, mental health information, even bouncy castles and petting zoos if you're able! These are worth planning far in advance.
You will need: publicity – staff – venue – seating – table – craft activities – leaflets - games – freebies – contact with external companies to arrange bouncy castle or petting zoo.
Whiteboard Campaign: 'Mental Health Matters Because...'
Whiteboard campaigns are great for getting conversation flowing. Set yourself up on campus and give passers by a prompt to fill in. Take photos and upload them on social media. You will need: a whiteboard – pens – camera - social media channel – publicity – consent from all who are photographed
Walks are great for relieving stress – make it sociable by organising something together. See Student Mind's guide for running Wellbeing Walks. You will need: a walk leader - publicity
Social Contact Event
Social contact events allow speakers to share their knowledge and experiences of mental health and wellbeing. These can be very powerful events, providing students with an opportunity to learn about mental health difficulties in an engaging way, from their peers. See this guide by Student Minds.
You will need: a venue – volunteer speakers - publicity
Staff supporting students at events
When running events on the topic of mental health, people may want to talk about their personal experiences. Be ready to listen to students and be equipped with signposting resources so that the person you are talking to feels confident about seeking further help.
Where possible, ensure that mental health support staff are present or contactable at staff-run events.
Students supporting students at events
When running events on the topic of mental health, people are likely to associate you with an understanding and safe environment, and may want to talk about their personal experiences. It is important that volunteers have a clear understanding of their role and the limitations of this to ensure that the event is a positive experience for all. Volunteers are not expected to take on a supportive role for any event attendees.
As a volunteer running an event, you are like a first aider. Just as a first aider at a sports event might put a temporary sling on someone who had hurt their arm, you should provide encouragement so that the person you are talking to feels confident about seeking further help.
See this document by Student Minds for more advice on how to support students in a manner appropriate to your volunteer role.