Are you being safe… with your mental health?
1 in 4 of us will struggle with mental health at some point in our lives. This may include feelings of: anxiety; addiction; obsession; phobia; depression; bipolar disorder, or an eating disorder. A recent study by Sussex Student Union has uncovered at least 42.2% of students started university with a mental health problem; meaning the remaining 26% of students developed a problem whilst at university.
One of the biggest obstacles of mental illness is the initial approach for help. Fear and uncertainty are the two main feelings that hinder us seeking the help we may need; so we simply shrug off that bad day, in hopes tomorrow will be better. “One in five students consider themselves to have a mental health problem,” (National Union of Students, 2013). This struggle of expressing how we feel makes the attempt of accessing support; as well as possible treatments seem far-fetched.
When we take that initial step into starting our university venture, nobody tells us that we’ll have days where we’ll feel homesick; days where we simply don’t want to go get out of bed, or days where we realise we miss our mum’s nagging, cooking, cleaning and general mum-like things.
Instead we’re fed stories about how crazy nights out are – never about the horrid hangovers, or rubbish feeling you have when it hits home that you’ve spent your entire loan on drinks, taxis, and fast-food. What they forget to tell you are the truths and reality of University life – beyond the cloud of being the social bee and party animal; it’s a big transition, the move away from home and adjusting to a new lifestyle.
Lets get talking.
When we feel like we’re having that day, week or month from hell it can be a struggle to realise there are various support systems; which we can turn to. Help is a simple courageous step away; you aren’t alone. There are various NHS and university services available to support your student lifestyle and overall well-being.
The NHS offer a variety of treatments, as well as counselling therapies such as: talking treatments; formerly known as counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).These are available in most institutions, and are services where individuals are given a space where they can talk freely about anything that may be troubling them.
Many universities offer the option for counselling, the process is pretty simple too; you’re initially referred to an advisor, who will then ask you basic questions about your thoughts and feelings, and what you hope to achieve from your sessions, from there you will be put on a waiting list for the opportunity to talk to a trained counsellor, at the next available convenience.
It’s tough juggling mental health and university, however, seeking help from tutors, counsellors or even doctors you can easily balance out the struggle. By accessing your universities help; you may be entitled to extensions for assignments and even extra time during exam periods.
19-year-old Illustration student, Chloe, comments: “It initially took me a while to conquer my fear of asking for help, but as I got into the swing of University I realised that I couldn’t keep putting away my bad days. I’d slowly stop attending lectures and not meeting deadlines. I was putting my future at a risk.
I researched the services my university offered, then faced the fear and contacted them. I’m in my final year now, and after having sessions throughout my second year, I finally feel I’m at a place where I can focus on my studies.”
It’s not only mental health charities who offer support. Friends and families are often the best support we can receive, for they are the ones who know us the best. It’s important to not isolate yourself, you don’t have to go through this alone.
When setting goals for yourself it can be tough, remember to be flexible and patient, not everything always goes to plan. Mental health charity ‘Rethink’ have put together an easy way to remember this: be Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time limited (SMART) when thinking of what you want to achieve.
All it takes is one step, and that step could change your life – forever.