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Following the university’s signing of the ‘Time to Change’ pledge which aims to encourage open discussion of mental health among students, deputy Wellbeing editor Jasmine Burke considers how this might improve student wellbeing at Bristol.

On the 6th October the University of Bristol made a stand for mental health, as Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Hugh Brady signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge – a pledge promising to be more open and proactive regarding mental health in this institution. Whilst this is an amazing step in the right direction regarding mental health, we are left with one big question: What happens next?

What we need to know is what actions the University will be taking to ensure that mental health is indeed more openly spoken about.

The event itself not only involved the signing of the pledge, but also included an exhibition, promoting various mental health charities and organisations around Bristol. Guests were met with various activities that allowed them to express their own feelings towards mental health, as well as discuss activities and actions that often make them feel better. Time to Change and the University used this event to really get the ball rolling, and encourage conversation using entertaining and consequently more comforting methods.

On signing the pledge, Brady promised to work towards building a community that not only allows improvement to personal resilience, but also supports the needs of the staff and students, as mental health and wellbeing are embedded within the University experience.

The Time to Change pledge is a step in the right direction for the university, which has been previously criticised for it’s treatment of student wellbeing and mental health.

The fact that the University is acknowledging their importance with this pledge is indicative of a brighter, more supportive experience at Bristol. However, at this early stage all we have are words and promises; the actions taken as a result of these are what matter the most. What we need to know is what actions the University will be taking to ensure that mental health is indeed more openly spoken about.

In a discussion with Director of Student Services, Mark Ames, he outlined the University’s intention to ‘Create an environment where people feel they’re able to talk about their mental wellbeing’ and insisted that a number of significant changes will be made throughout the course of the year. The addition of £1 million in mental health funding will lead to wellbeing advisors in the different schools, which he hopes will encourage more students to come through and talk about their problems. As well as this, more emphasis shall be put on the mental wellbeing of not only the students, but the staff as well, because, as the Time to Change Ambassador so rightly said, we must ‘remember to put our own mask on before we support others’.

The time to change is now and the University appears to be ready and willing to put in the effort. Before being allowed to sign the pledge, the University were made to submit an action plan, so it is evident that there has been some thought behind this, and they are truly looking to make a difference.

Related article: Time to Change: mental health campaigners share inspirational story with students

With the six student suicides that took place at the University of Bristol last year, creating a dialogue surrounding mental health is extremely beneficial. The more we can normalise the discussion of these issues, the more we can prevent people from feeling isolated, with no one to talk to. 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness, so they should not be shied away from, but rather recognised and acted upon. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of Bristol’s efforts to bring these discussions forward.

By signing this pledge, the University have now committed themselves to change, now all we can do is wait to see how they deliver.


What do you think about Bristol’s signing of the Time to Change pledge? Comment below or get in touch! 

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