Oxford University held its annual ‘Wellbeing Week’ from 11 to 15 November, opening up dialogue around wellbeing and welfare to support students’ mental health during 5th week.
Often cited by students as one of the hardest weeks of term, the week induces the phenomenon referred to as “fifth week blues.”
Events included an overview of the university and student union support services, branded ‘Welcome to Worcester Street,’ as well as a presentation on the newStudent Wellbeing and Mental Health Strategy.
There were also more relaxed events such as opportunities to get active with Oxford University Sport, and a wellbeing dog walk.
The events were run by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC) as part of the project to raise awareness about wellbeing in the university.
In outlining the importance of the events during wellbeing week, Oli Bazin, an associate at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, stated: “The importance of mental health and well-being is widely acknowledged in the Higher Education setting, where student life can bring a host of personal and emotional challenges alongside academic demands.”
Bazin highlighted mindfulness as a large part of wellbeing, saying, “Mindfulness is a well- researched, non-religious and effective means of alleviating stress, anxiety and depression, and promoting well-being.”
The OMC has been running mindfulness courses for students since 2011.
Students also underlined the importance of the week. Luke Knight, a first-year physics undergraduate at Lady Margaret Hall, said: “Wellbeing week is definitely what I need right now. It’s nice to know that fifth week blues sets in for everyone and that support is on hand. I like how it’s uni-wide, not just in college, too.”
Meanwhile, additional wellbeing events will also take place across Colleges and Departments. Students at St Hilda’s college can take part in several events ranging from welfare teas to mental health workshops, tackling issues such as imposter syndrome and anxiety.
In many colleges, including St Hilda’s, events are student lead by the JCR and its welfare reps. Student welfare rep Amber Korde commented: “Having a welfare structure within colleges is extremely important to student wellbeing as well as their success here.
“Oxford can be a tough environment at times so having a support network in place, from welfare officers to junior deans, is such an important thing. Student welfare is, and always should be, something that we think about throughout the year but events like welfare week give us a chance to really emphasise the importance of looking after ourselves and each other.”
Wellbeing week comes as part of the University and Student Union’s ‘Wellbeing at Oxford Campaign,’ which aims to raise awareness about student wellbeing and take an institution-wide approach to welfare.
In 2018 the campaign launched a “strategic plan” to invest considerable resources into welfare. Wellbeing week forms a part of this increased focus on mental health, with events open to all students running throughout the week.
In the Student Wellbeing and Mental Health Strategy, the university says: “We are adopting an holistic approach to student wellbeing and mental health covering all aspects of the student experience. Providing the right support is a key strand to our work, but so is prevention and building resilience. We will review course design, promote and embed inclusive practice, and help students to develop the life skills which will help them to thrive.”
In the strategy, Education Pro-Vice-Chancellor Martin Williams states: “Oxford’s strategy forms part of a wider focus on mental health and wellbeing across the higher education sector. We are proud to have been involved in sector-wide discussions for several years and will continue to do so in the future.
Highlighting the university’s commitment change, he said: “Everyone at Oxford has a role to play in student mental health and wellbeing, and this strategy signals the start of a longer journey towards achieving our vision for the collegiate University.”