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Let’s talk about mental health

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]oing a degree can prove to be many things: exciting, pivotal, challenging… But sometimes, the newfound freedom of pursuing your dreams can have the downside of being incredibly isolating. It is estimated that a massive 13% of people in higher education have suicidal thoughts, while 1 in 5 would describe themselves as having a mental health problem.

Thankfully, institutions like Warwick come armed with a myriad of student support resources to combat this epidemic and ensure that those who study here are given every opportunity to succeed.

While the tendency among news outlets is to suggest that Universities are ‘crumbling under the pressure’, the University of Warwick disguises this well and its main priority remains reassuring those who use these resources that there is help available.

Are the services oversubscribed? Yes. Are the appointments immediate? No. However, the quality of the support cannot be underestimated.

A little bit about these services:

The demand is highest for the Counselling Service based at Westwood. Catering for everything from low self-esteem to exams stress, the sessions at Warwick are refreshingly non-threatening and in spite of aforementioned pressure, appointments manage to be within 2-3 weeks of application. The service helps curb the demand by running a number of workshops alongside one-to-one and group counselling, such as “Mindfulness Introduction” and “Coping with Bereavement”.

If you are – or believe yourself to be – suffering from a mental illness, the on-campus University Health Centre is a place to discuss your options. They will also make sure that you are aware of services such as Nightline, a student-run support service/hotline that runs from 9pm to 9am and the University Security Services who respond to mental health crises.

Crucially, there is an on-campus Mental Health and Wellbeing Team. This is to provide students with essential mental health support and in some cases, refer them to NHS services. Your options will be discussed in-depth, your opinions taken in to consideration and you may have a few follow-up appointments to monitor how you are progressing.

Some advice that I wish I had been given before starting University last September:

1) Make the people around you aware of your conditions

This can feel like an awkward or unnecessary conversation, but when you reach a crisis point and no one knows what is going on, you will wish you had done this.

Inform your personal tutor – and possibly those teaching you as well – of what you are dealing with. They can provide you with key pastoral support, help in facilitating extensions on coursework deadlines if necessary and in the worst case scenario, support you in temporary withdrawal from your course.

Telling your peers is a terrifying thought, but it’s an easier process than expected. Some people may not know what to do or say, but in my experience, people at least try to understand. Should everything become too much, this will prevent you from isolating yourself.

2) Follow through with your treatment plan:

Amidst the rush to submit work on time, regain your social life or just catch up on your sleep once you start feeling better, it can be tempting to skip a counselling/ therapy session or consider coming off any medication you have been subscribed. DON’T.

If you are feeling better, it’s because the treatment plan is working. Lifting your mood is only the first part and you may need to be taught alternative coping mechanisms to ensure that your recovery is long-term. Trust the people who are helping you and communicate with them.

3) Find a routine:

Of all the phases of your life, University may turn out to be the one most devoid of rhythm. But when you’re struggling with a personal issue, it is hugely beneficial to pencil in some ‘you-time’. Whether this is exercising, cooking a meal, or taking a relaxing bath, create spaces in your day to practice some self- care and focus on yourself.

At Warwick, these resources not only help the students affected by poor mental health to recover, but provides our University with the opportunity to create an environment with a progressive, healthy attitude to the issue of mental health itself.

You may never struggle with your own mental or emotional wellbeing, but someone may reach out to you or you may suspect that someone is suffering alone. The conversation about mental health should never be treated as uncomfortable. And now you have all the important information you need to help yourself or someone you know.

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