Published: 10 October 2017

Ruby Wax and University of Surrey challenge stigma around mental health

Dr Melaine Coward, Professor Ruby Wax and VIP guests discussed how we can combat the stigma around mental health at special panel event.

The World Health Organization recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the event, and the theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health for this year is ‘mental health in the workplace’. According to figures from the UK Health and Safety Executive, work related stress accounts for 37 per cent of work related ill health (2015/16) and over 11.7 million days are lost at work a year because of stress at work. At the University of Surrey, we’re actively researching mental health in the workplace, as well as a wide number of other areas. Most of this research takes place in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, within the School of Health Sciences and the School of Psychology.  

Not all wounds are visible

On 9 October 2017, the eve of World Mental Health Day, the School of Health Sciences organised and hosted an event entitled ‘Not all wounds are visible’ to celebrate World Mental Health Day and support the work of the World Federation for Mental Health. The event consisted of a panel discussion with acclaimed actress, Professor Ruby Wax and writer and actor Rhashan Stone, who discussed mental health and the difficulties that individuals and their families face when seeking help. Panel members also included Dr Melaine Coward, Head of the School of Health Sciences, Rotimi Akinsete, Director of the Centre for Wellbeing, and Mary John, Head of the Department for Psychological Practice and Intervention. A vocal advocate and active campaigner for mental health, Professor Ruby Wax drew on her own personal experiences of mental health and the difficulties she had faced, supported by her close friend Rhashan Stone who highlighted the realities of supporting a person struggling from mental health issues. Other panel members also offered their expert opinions on how to identify and treat people with mental health difficulties. The panel also discussed how to combat the stigma surrounding mental health and break down the barriers that prevent individuals and their families from seeking help. Dr Melaine Coward said: “I am thrilled to have Ruby here to help raise the issue of mental health. Mental health is an area so often swept under the carpet, but it is important that we give people the confidence to speak out and ask for help. Here at Surrey we are helping to train the next generation of health professionals who will be able to treat and care for those in need.” Professor Ruby Wax, who is a Visiting Professor in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey, said: “I am delighted to have been given this opportunity by the University of Surrey. I very much enjoyed sharing my experiences to help inform teaching and learning, particularly in the area of mental health.”

Mental health research at Surrey

Mental health is just as much about prevention as treatment, and researchers from Surrey’s School of Psychology study the causes of mental illness as a way to understand how to prevent them from developing in the future. In keeping with this year’s mental health in the workplace theme, Professor Mark Cropley, Director of Research for the School of Psychology, commented: “It is not unusual for people to think and reflect about work issues during their leisure time. Individuals may look back over their day, think about interesting aspects of their job, or find solutions to problems they have been unable to solve at work. There are many people however who find they are unable to escape from their work, and thinking or ruminating about work issues dominates much of their free time. “Surveys have found that up to 70 per cent of workers find it difficult to unwind post-work, and many of these workers suffer because of this. Inadequate recovery or poor disengagement from work has been associated with a number of health problems including: anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep disturbance and cardiovascular disease. Indeed, we now know that it is not necessarily work demands that cause health problems, but it’s the failure to adequately unwind from work that is the crucial factor. It is therefore important for all of us to distract ourselves and switch off from work, in order to prevent us from developing health issues.”


Find out more about our research in the School of Health Sciences and the School of Psychology.

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