A reflection to mark Mental Health Awareness Week
By Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President
I was delighted to see how successfully last term’s ‘It’s Okay To…’ campaign shone a light on some really important issues around our mental health and wellbeing during this challenging time. I was especially impressed by the staff contributions to this blog, which are thoughtful, compassionate, honest and, I’m sure, helpful to many colleagues. My thanks to our Mental Health Champions for organising such a worthwhile project.
The campaign may have ended, but its sentiment and the messages hold true. Social isolation, stress and anxiety continue to be a feature of life for many of us, and the range of contributors to the blog – from administrators and academics to members of the Executive Team – demonstrates just how pervasive the wider effects of the pandemic have been; but we should always feel able to take a step back, breathe, and connect with someone if we feel the need.
On a personal note, I wish to thank all the contributors for their openness, generosity and courage. This has been, without doubt, the most challenging and difficult year I have experienced during almost four decades as a clinician, educator, researcher and university president, and I found the words of these wonderful colleagues both comforting and inspiring in equal measure!
This is the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, which serves as another reminder to us that, while campaigns and themed national events can be an effective way to focus attention on mental health, the importance of looking after ourselves and each other is a year-round issue.
Do have a look at the events and resources that our colleagues in Staff Engagement and other teams have organised for the week – and please do take part, to any degree you feel able to. Sign up to an event, take part in a discussion, or just take this year’s theme of ‘Nature’ as a prompt to get out into the countryside or find a quiet green space in the city.
Our conversations about mental health at Bristol will continue, including the very real issues of workload that I know can sometimes present a major challenge to the notion of relaxation. In the meantime, please remember the message of last term’s campaign, in all its variations: if you need to disconnect and reconnect, to stare out of the window, to take baby steps, to catch up over coffee, to ask for help 20 times a day, or to make some small changes to your routine that could improve your work and home life during this unsettling time, please do. It’s Okay To.
As part of the University’s Mental Health Awareness Week events, the Mental Health Champions are running a Wellbeing Strategy Discussion Group. The outcomes will be fed back to the Executive Team – so if you’d like to influence the discussion, book a place and join the conversation.