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Changing attitudes, changing lives: Helping students on World Mental Health Day

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Published on 10 October 2018

Marking World Mental Health
Marking World Mental Health

From hiking through the North East countryside to surfing off the coast at Roker – students are changing their lives with help from the University of Sunderland.

This year’s World Mental Health Day on Wednesday October 10 brings attention to the wellbeing of young people.

The UK government has this week expressed a desire to make student mental health a top priority.

The University of Sunderland is playing a key role in ensuring its students are healthy, resilient and work-ready thanks to a series of services and initiatives geared towards supporting them.

Tracey McKenzie, Head of Wellbeing at the University, said: “Student Wellbeing is here to support students in relation to their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. 

“Wellbeing is a team of highly qualified and experienced professionals and we work with students, creating a personalised approach to meet their wellbeing needs.  We can help them to build their emotional resilience and resourcefulness, develop their self-awareness and to create positive changes.  This can be truly life changing.”

Wellbeing say they are also aware of the relationship between physical health and mental health and so work closely with the University’s Institute of Sport.

Rob Graham, Sports Development Officer at the University of Sunderland,said: “We recognise the unique way in which sport and physical activity can positively affect our students’ mental wellbeing.

“In light of this, working in unison with the University Wellbeing department we offer students free access to our ‘Wellbeing through Adventure’ programme, hiking across the North East, surfing our coast and kayaking our rivers and bays. We also offer access to fitness facilities for those referred through the exercise referral scheme.”

This week a 200,000 strong petition calling for employers to provide mental health first-aiders at every work place was handed into 10 Downing Street.The petition asks the Government to update the Health and Safety at Work Act to make sure employers are obliged to provide first aid-trained staff to support colleagues suffering from mental health issues, in the same way they have to make sure staff are trained in physical first aid.

This is something the University of Sunderland is already tackling.

Rob added: “Our latest initiative is to provide our Team Sunderland Sport team committees with Mental Health First Aid training, giving them skills to recognise potential warning signs amongst their friends and peers and breed a culture of transparency and support for students suffering such issues.” 

Mental Health is back in the headlines this week after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a summit in London aimed at helping to improve mental health around the world. William and Kate joined Health Secretary Matt Hancock as they arrived at the first Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit.

The University of Sunderland Students’ Union is supporting World Mental Health Day by hosting a number of activities at St Peter’s Campus. Find out more here.

What our students are saying about the mental health support they are receiving:

“Coming here has been fantastic and I just wish I had met you years ago.  I know it’s not going to be easy but I’ve got my backpack of resources and I’m ready for the climb.”


“I have felt supported throughout the last few months and have the courage to admit to myself how my upbringing has affected my life. 

I have come to understand that in times of stress I can ask for help and support and will not be rejected.  If I didn’t have the excellent experience I have had, I would not have been able to continue my third year and would not have been able to cope at home.”


“Over this short time he has helped my thinking change dramatically and gave me some amazing recourses which I am going to continue using.”


“I am eternally grateful to you and the whole team at wellbeing, you guys are my lifeline, I would not be still here fighting if not for your service.”


“I can’t believe the changes in me. I was ready to drop out of Uni. Just couldn’t handle it all anymore. You helped me to break it down and put things in perspective.  You challenged me and that’s just what I needed as you supported me to realise the only person who could make a difference, was me. Here I am, a Year 2 and raring to go.”