ECA Wellbeing Week might be over but that doesn’t mean that staff and students’ mental health is any less important. After a week of meditation, workshops and seminars full of self-care tips – and even cute dogs! -  it is hoped that those who attended absorbed the positivity and that, overall, awareness about mental health was raised. Web intern Rachel Lee spoke to two of the guest speakers, Audrey Hird and Elaine Gunn, about the week.

A silver lining of 2017 is that mental health and wellbeing became a far less taboo conversation topic and finally became a priority of the Government. This time last year, the Scottish Government announced the commencing of their 10-year Mental Health Strategy which included the initiative to make sure that every person in education had access to emotional and mental wellbeing support.  Fronted by Ruffo the mascot – designed by Artist in Residence and Illustration (MA) graduate, Pilar Garcia de Leaniz – ECA Wellbeing Week played an important role in introducing wellbeing support for both staff and students as the norm at university.

ECA alumni also got involved in the week by taking part in discussions with staff and students. Led by the Director of Student Experience, alumni shared their personal experiences of wellbeing during their studies and offered real-life guidance of how they tackled difficult situations.

Audrey Hird held a mediation workshop, bringing her vast knowledge and experience of wellbeing with her. Audrey has practised meditation since the 1980s, and credits it with helping her overcome both depression and the emotional toll of battling cancer. Audrey believes it is essential for us to put time aside for mindfulness. “And it’s not just about the mind obviously – it’s about the body too,” said Audrey, “Your body needs exercise but your mind needs quietness sometimes. I do believe it’s the whole package – it’s eating, it’s exercising, and it’s sleep as well as meditating.”

Edinburgh College of Art
ECA Wellbeing Week included lots of Thera-pets sessions for staff and students

“It shows a real commitment as an institution by acknowledging that university is not just a show-up, get-your-grades, read-your-books, go-home thing.”

Elaine Gunn, Body/mind connection therapist

Elaine Gunn – who led a talk on the connection between the body and mind, as well as offering holistic treatments during the week – follows a similar mantra. She believes that when your mind is overwhelmed, it uses a specific pressure point in your body to send a distress signal to you – and that you shouldn’t dismiss the pain. She advises people to find what self-care activity works best for them, and that doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on a fancy rug – it can be as simple as taking a walk or thinking about that you are grateful for in life. “I think it’s important to incorporate mindful things into your world,” she said, “It’s just finding things that you can do individually that are helpful to you.”

Elaine commends ECA’s organising of a week dedicated to wellbeing. “It’s really a great idea,” she said, “it shows a real commitment as an institution by acknowledging that university is not just a show-up, get-your-grades, read-your-books, go-home thing.” Elaine believes that ECA has helped pushed forward society’s growing realisation that we should stop ignoring our emotions and welcomes more wellbeing activities at ECA in the future. “The more of this kind of thing that can be done the better – and hopefully people who found it helpful will spread the word.”

ECA Wellbeing Week was organised by Amy Forrest and Jacqueline Plumer from the Student Support Office at Edinburgh College of Art. The Student Support Team are here to advise you on both administrative and pastoral matters during your studies, and they are part of a range of support available to you at the University.

Related links