This World Mental Health Day, we caught up with Hannah Nimmo, York University Students’ Union (YUSU) Community and Wellbeing Officer. She gives us an insight into her role at the University and shares some top tips to support your wellbeing.
“I’m originally from Liverpool and a first-generation student, and very proud to be so. I am a firm believer that anyone and everyone should have access to Higher Education and above all, any appropriate support they need to study at University – wellbeing, academic, financial, you name it! That is one principle that underpins all of the work that I do as Community and Wellbeing Officer.”
As wellbeing is a big part of your role, what do you do to look after your own wellbeing?
“Millennium Bridge is my favourite place in York, so I like to take walks along the River Ouse to see it. I am a huge fan of cake, so I also bake a lot and I am an avid reader – I own over 800 books and I am always in the market for book recommendations!”
What top tips would you recommend to the student and alumni community to support their own mental wellbeing?
- Take regular breaks and schedule time for yourself to do the things you enjoy
- It’s okay to say no!
- Find an outlet that is good for your mental health – sport, reading, watching TV shows etc.
- Routines can be good – finding a way of working, studying or scheduling your week that works for you can really help in finding some stability
- Find ways to separate working and living spaces, especially if you work from home! Whether that be using the library or working in a different room to your bedroom or whichever room you spend most of your time in at home.
What made you decide to run for the Community and Wellbeing Officer position?
“When I was growing up, I had always said that I wanted to work in a job where I was able to make a positive difference in the lives of others, but never really knew what that could look like in practice.
I chose to study for my Undergraduate degree at York because I loved the sense of community that the University has created. I am also a big fan of the collegiate structure of York and a proud member of the Constantine College alumni (big up the Pink Army!).
In my second year, I was elected onto the Constantine College Student’s Association (CCSA) as Vice-President of Community and Wellbeing, and my time on the CCSA is what led me to get more involved in the Students’ Union and it’s campaigning, and ultimately to running for the Community and Wellbeing Officer role in my final year as a student.
The Community and Wellbeing Officer role is perfect for me because my full-time job is to campaign to improve the lives of students and to make sure they have the best support and maximum number of opportunities available to them. It is a role where I get to make positive changes and to make a difference in the York community.”
“My full-time job is to campaign to improve the lives of students … It is a role where I get to make positive changes and to make a difference in the York community.”
What does your role involve?
“I represent students on any issues that have an impact on the York community and the students in it, or on student welfare and wellbeing. This includes cost of living support, housing and public transport to accessibility, liberation networks, student mental health and welfare, and more. I work to empower students to advocate for their own rights on these issues too.
I support the YUSU Part-Time Officers (PTOs for short) and the college student committees to deliver their activities and campaigns. I also work with the University, the City of York Council and other local organisations to ensure that students feel included and integrated into the York community, and I am able to signpost students to appropriate support services on a range of issues that they may face.”
What are the highlights of your role on campus?
“There’s too many to choose from! I’ve been able to be part of some incredible events, such as Sabbs Come Dancing, the University’s International Women’s Day Celebration, Middle Ground 3.0 and more. I have also been fortunate enough to be re-elected by students to serve two terms in Office, which was pretty special.
However, the stand out for me in this role is all of the people I get to work with – my fellow Sabbs, the teams at YUSU and the University, the York community, but above all, our students. The students of York always blow me away with their kindness and generosity, and I am inspired every single day by the talent and creativity of York students, and they provide me with motivation to continue advocating for their best interests.”
Why is wellbeing important to you?
“Wellbeing is so important to me because it underpins everything we do, often without us realising it. Day-to-day, everything we say, do or feel has an impact on us, and this is the wellbeing impact. If we don’t stay in tune with this within ourselves, that is when an individual’s wellbeing can be negatively affected, so I am a massive advocate for paying attention to how something makes you feel and prioritising your own mental wellbeing first.
When we take the time to look after our own wellbeing, we often have better relationships with ourselves and others, higher life satisfaction and self esteem, and more healthy and content within ourselves. This can be as simple as eating well and getting enough sleep, or accessing professional support if you ever feel like you need it.
“If you notice something has changed with someone’s behaviour or outlook, check in on them and see if they need space to talk.”
Taking time to look out for others is really important too – if you notice something has changed with someone’s behaviour or outlook, check in on them and see if they need space to talk. That check in could be exactly what they need to make the first step to prioritising their own wellbeing, and having a strong supportive community around you makes some of those bigger steps like accessing support a lot easier. So, by people putting wellbeing first, of both themselves and of others, it truly makes a difference for everyone.”
Do you think attitudes towards mental wellbeing need to change?
“I think that social attitudes to mental health have shifted a lot in the past few years – I think it is now a bit more normalised and accepted, and there is more of an open culture of talking about how you are feeling and accessing support. However, in many ways, there is still a huge stigma attached to this concept, particularly amongst certain social groups such as males, people of colour and young people. This is something that I am very passionate about driving a change for, because no matter what, every single person should have the chance to explore their own mind and access the support they really need.
“As a society, on the whole, we are very good at looking out for others, but we aren’t as good at reflecting this same caring nature onto ourselves and giving ourselves the time and space we need to look after our own wellbeing”
I also think that as a society, on the whole, we are very good at looking out for others, but we aren’t as good at reflecting this same caring nature onto ourselves and giving ourselves the time and space we need to look after our own wellbeing too. Things like setting boundaries between yourself and others, as well as planning in time to do something that will be positively beneficial to your mind, are really important, and it is something that I would recommend that everyone tries to do a little bit more of!”