In celebration of World Mental Health day on the 10 October, the Department of Oncology opened its doors to the rest of the Medical Sciences Division and hosted a range of exciting workshops, activities and lectures in order to promote better awareness around mental health.
The morning workshops on Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome were an excellent start to the day. They were extremely interactive, and stimulated a great deal of discussion amongst the participants. It was brilliant to hear everyone sharing stories and past experiences, and realising that actually, everyone in the academic community faces very similar challenges and thoughts on a day-to-day basis!
Over lunch, we had a brilliant yoga session, as well as some fantastic stalls on show in the atrium. The MSD Peer Supporters were inviting students to consider and share how they feel when faced with those inevitable failed experiments, and their coping strategies. The Mental Health supporters put on some fun plant potting activities, which were really well received. It was also brilliant to welcome the Oxfordshire-based mental health charity Restore into our Department, who put on a great introductory session to Mental Health First Aid.
The afternoon lecture series kickstarted with a fascinating talk from Prof. Kate Saunders discussing the substantial increase in mental health-related issues experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kate also touched on the positive impacts of the pandemic, including improved collaboration between industry and academic institutes, as well as a heightened awareness amongst the general public about the importance of mental wellbeing.
Next we had Dr Brooke Prakash from the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute (SCNi) talking on the science of sleep, and why it’s so critical for both our physical and mental health. She explained how our basic ‘sleep architecture’ comprises several different phases of sleep (e.g. rapid eye movement, REM) and emphasised the importance of maintaining consistency in our sleeping patterns (which can be especially difficult for some individuals, such as medics on night shifts).
Finally, we were privileged to hear Prof. Ruth Baer from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre giving an introduction to Mindfulness, and how we can best implement it in our daily lives. This included a fun mini meditation session with the audience!
In all, this year’s World Mental Health day was a great success as a first event, and it was brilliant to see so many of the Department and the wider MSD engaging with the events on offer. Roll on next year!