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If you can't find what you're looking for here or in our Index, or have any questions please email usThe Occupational Health team can also help you with expert confidential advice and support.

Spectrum Life is our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which is a confidential, neutral service provided by an external company to support colleagues at the University, including free counselling. 

This is Me - sharing stories about our mental health

This is Me

This is Me

Colleague Wellbeing are passionate about reducing stigma and encouraging open conversations about mental health. Aligned with University Strategy 2030, we aim to encourage support for each other, be compassionate and prioritise the health and wellbeing of our University of Exeter community. 

We’ve been following a charity campaign called “This is Me” which encourages storytelling as a great way to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing and create a culture of compassion.

As part of this initiative, we are asking all colleagues who feel comfortable sharing a story about their mental health journey to do so here by 23rd September 2022.  

The options to get involved are incredibly open. You can share anonymously or share your name. The story can be about anything to do with mental health, long or short, about your past, present or future. If you wish, you could also include what you found helpful in terms of help-seeking and support. We will then share these stories in October on our Colleague Wellbeing pages via the Weekly Bulletin and other channels. Note: Please be aware we will be unable to share any graphic content relating to self harm.

By sharing our stories about mental health, we plan to encourage hope, reduce stigma and show that whatever you’re going through, you are not alone. 

Sharing a story can be incredibly cathartic and rewarding, but it may of course bring up some emotions. If this is the case please do remember we all have access to free counselling with our EAP Spectrum Life and you can explore our A-Z of wellbeing support. If you have any questions about support or this initiative, please email us at ColleagueWellbeing@exeter.ac.uk.

 

Here is a story sent in by our colleague, Geoffrey Palmer. He is keen to help reduce stigma and spread the message that "it's OK not to be OK". 

Example story

Hi all,

While I still have my brave pants on I just wanted share this here. I know we have all seen a lot of stress and pressure in our lives with so much going on but I'm really proud that everyone is here and living another day. Just remember, you got this!

What people see:
-Stereotypical IT guy in nerdy T-shirt and Jeans
-A rather dark and quick sense of humour
-A reasonable car
-A partner who he will defend with his last breath
-A nice-ish house
-Spoilt and loved Horses at our yard and 2 Dogs in our home
So almost the ideal life

What people don't see:
-The Antidepressants that I rely on
-The Prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatories I need to get through the day
-The eye strain and headaches from working my job and then hiding behind my phone in the evenings or staring blankly at the TV just to keep my mind off the real world
-The nights of laying awake while a fight goes on in my head
-The lost weekends when I don't even have the fight left in me to get out of bed
-The worried look on my partner and my family's faces when the mask I wear starts to slip
-The morning ritual that HAS to happen when I leave the house otherwise the day is a write-off
-The cancelled personal events due to just not being able to face people

My name is Geoff. I suffer from Stress, Anxiety and Depression. Does this affect my life? Yes it does but it doesn't define me. Every time I can get up is a win, every time I can start a conversation with someone is a win, heck - every time I can put the washing on is a win.

It is OK to struggle, It is OK to feel low even though everything looks like it is going OK and it is 100% fine to rely on anti-depressants!
Mental health still sadly has a stigma attached to it, it is going but it does sadly still exist. I'm hoping by standing up and showing that it is nothing to be ashamed of it will hopefully give one more person the ability to ask for help as I know that is one of the hardest steps!

And before anyone asks, yes I was utterly terrified to hit the submit button and still quite worried about what a post like this could do to my standing in the IT community but the more of us stand up the easier it becomes.

Love and respect to you all.

Below is a story sent in by Mike Shore-Nye, our Registrar, about his experience surrounding his mental health. 

Example story

I have always prided myself on my personal resilience and being able to cope with pretty much anything so when I found that my anxiety levels were increasing and my sleep was suffering badly after managing the bomb incident at the University I really didn’t understand what was happening to me. Talking about how I was feeling to my colleagues really helped me understand that what I was feeling was entirely natural and reflected months and months of exhaustion from dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. This period of heightened tension and pressure had made my ‘fight and flight’ response become my default response to almost everything that was happening in my life which was a truly exhausting place to be.

After talking it through with HR colleagues and my line manager, I was advised to speak to our University support service, Spectrum Life, and after a couple of phone calls where I got a chance to discuss my feelings about the incident and identify ways to better deal with them I started to feel much better.

This experience has taught me that it is always best to share your challenges with your colleagues and that there is non-judgemental and supportive help there if you need it at the University. I think having been through this has made me a better leader and more empathetic manager and has enabled me to develop even more effective personal coping strategies such as sharing challenges with colleagues, the importance of exercise and fresh air and taking that much needed holiday as planned and also to recognise when I need my team and my line managers help and support to preserve my resilience.

Below is an example of how the Bank of England embraced the "This is Me" initiative to encourage openness and reduce stigma.