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World Mental Health Day 2018

Written by Eleanor Sanger, posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sirius the black dog in Tom Quad10th October is World Mental Health Day, and on 9th and 10th October Tom Quad has been host to ‘Sirius’ the black dog, an art installation promoted by the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Richard Venables, to highlight mental health awareness. The black dog statue is visiting schools and colleges across Oxfordshire, and volunteers from the mental health charity SANE will also visit each location to provide workshops on mental health awareness.

The ‘black dog’ is often used metaphorically to refer to depression, and the dog (named Sirius by pupils at D’Overbroecks School – given our associations with Harry Potter we definitely approve!) is intended to encourage open conversations about mental health. It stands on a plinth giving details of helplines and websites where people can find out more and get help and advice about dealing with mental health issues. It even has a personalised collar and coat with the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire’s coat of arms and the Shrievalty coat of arms. As well as being a useful resource for people to be able to find out more about mental health, it also provides a talking point for people to discuss their own mental health, potentially allowing people to open up about any problems they may be encountering.

Looking after your mental health is very important whilst at university, where various things such as being away from home and work stress can occasionally cause problems. There are a wide variety of sources of help, advice and support, plus other initiatives, both in college and the university:

Today we’re holding a workshop for students run by SANE, the mental health charity, with some advice on how to overcome and manage depression.

At the start of term there were also various other workshops and talks in college to give freshers some guidance on where they can go for help, including a welfare meeting, a talk on emotional resilience, welfare tea, and tea and cake with Clare, our Welfare Coordinator and Chaplain.

The Students Union runs dog walking sessions each week, giving students the chance to get some exercise, enjoy the fresh air, and make the most of a break from work with some of the university’s pets! The Dean’s dogs often take part, and today Christ Church students can join Clare as she takes her new puppy Brain Strain tea with ClareLayla for a walk around Christ Church Meadow!

There are welfare reps for the JCR (undergraduate students) and GCR (graduate students) who organise events such as games nights and welfare tea each week to give people time to relax and catch up over some tasty snacks as well as being on hand to offer support and advice to fellow students. You can find out more about what they do in previous blog posts about JCR welfare and GCR welfare.

The GCR also have a vacation officer, who helps students still in Oxford over the vacations to avoid feelings of loneliness by organising events and activities! Take a look at this post to find out more.

Other students that are always on hand to help are our team of specially trained Peer Supporters! Their training allows them to listen effectively, maintain confidentiality and provide support and guidance. As well as being available to chat at any time, they also run events, such as a regular drop in ‘Late Night Tea Break’ to provide support during a late night essay crisis.

There are members of staff and student reps with a wide range of specific remits, including disabilities, gender equality, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQ+ and international students. We also have a college nurse and a college counsellor, who are both on hand each week if our students need more specialist support.

It's always good to remember that there are plenty of people here who can help you if you're finding things hard, from your friends and other students, to members of staff who've had special training on how to deal with particular situations. Our welfare guide provides plenty of information on the help, advice and support that's available both at Christ Church and in the wider university - so take a look, and feel free to get in touch with the relevant people whenever you need to.