Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

It’s not all in your head: talking about mental health as students

With the passing of World Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th of September, just as many of us were getting ready to start a new year at university. Around this time, it can be easy to feel anxious, nervous or depressed. We are perhaps all in need of some collective reminders to stay mentally healthy.

The world is a turbulent place in which to be living right now, academic life aside, and it is more important than ever before to feel able to open up about our mental health – the good and the bad.

No one is going to successfully muddle their way through student life without being touched in some way by mental health.  From more mild illness created by academic and personal stress or loneliness, to strong bouts of depression, anxiety and diagnosed disorders, each one of us is going to face some form of adversity from our minds. That’s why it is so vital to talk about our feelings since no matter how much we might feel we are, we are not alone in our experience.

A problem shared really is a problem halved

According to YouGov statistics, one in four students openly report suffering from their mental health, and in the 10-year period between 2006-16, reports from first-year students expressing that they had experienced mental health difficulties jumped from 3,000 students to over 15,000.

While it is very possible that mental struggles have increased in our modern world, there is far less stigma attached to mental illness than at any time in living memory, so people are feeling ever more capable to share their very human emotions. If you are finding things hard, then you can (and should) talk about it. A problem shared really is a problem halved.

Try to build up a support network of sorts, made up of friends, flatmates, family, even online support groups, anyone who makes you feel safe and comfortable. If you are new to university then look to societies, sports clubs and coursemates to find like-minded people. It might seem nerve-wracking, but really do your best to put yourself out there.

The support network of loved ones you surround yourself with is what will keep you afloat

Remember that friendships take time, so don’t worry if you aren’t living the wild university experience you might have seen on social media or TV right away, especially given the current restrictions.

The support network of loved ones you surround yourself with is what will keep you afloat during the worst of times, and be happy with and for you during the best of times. Although it might seem awkward or overly personal to open up to people, just try your best to be as honest and authentic as you can with those you trust. You might even find that the person you are talking to has had a similar experience. It might be useful to ask for advice from student peers; though different, we are all in many ways having a universal student experience and can empathise the most.

However, I get it, often you don’t want to talk about it at all, let alone to someone you know and love. On a personal note, after talking to a family member, the biggest help for me came after visiting my GP. The NHS gets a bad rap when it comes to mental health services, and to be honest, rightly so. It is chronically underfunded, understaffed and under-prioritised, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back from approaching your GP in the first place. The NHS is there for us all to use whenever we need healthcare. It doesn’t hurt to book a GP appointment, talk and ask what services you are able to access, be it pharmaceutical or talking therapies.

There are different places you can go to get confidential, unbiased help

Based on campus, there are different places you can go to get confidential, unbiased help. Warwick has its own Wellbeing Support Services. Though currently virtual instead of face-to-face, you can go online and fill out an appointment application form, or simply sign up straight away to any workshop/masterclass on various topics, from perfectionism to coping with change.

Warwick Nightline is available to call every night during term time and can be emailed at any time. They are based in between new and old Rootes and provide a “non-judgemental, student-run and confidential peer-to-peer support listening service”.

It is run by anonymous student volunteers who are specially trained to help. Warwick Mind Aware is a student-run society that campaigns to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce stigma. They run events that help ease the pressures of being a student, like doggy de-stress days and hold fun socials as other societies do.

Your mental health and wellbeing should be your first priority

You might want to head to the Chaplaincy Advisory for guidance of a spiritual nature or contact the Student Advice Centre on floor 2 of the SU HQ, for support and professional advice on issues regarding wellbeing, academia or housing.

Finally, don’t forget you can contact your academic department, especially if you are finding uni work difficult. At the end of the day, staff are human beings just like anyone else and they might be able to help you in more practical ways, like extending a deadline. Your departmental Head of Wellbeing or Personal Tutor should really help you work through any academic difficulties that are causing you large amounts of stress.

Remember, your degree is just one aspect of your multi-faceted life, and your mental health and wellbeing should be your first priority. After all, while self-love and being your own best friend might seem like cheesy, trendy topics, fundamentally they are really important sentiments. Reach out for help if you need it as future you will be stronger, more emotionally capable, and truly grateful.

For anyone who has been affected by the issues raised in this article, there are lots of places you can turn to for help and support. Warwick Wellbeing Support Services are available through the Wellbeing Portal, online or over the phone. NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust are offering online or over the phone urgent support for anyone suffering from mental health issues. More information can be found on their website. Charities such as MIND also have information, guidance and support available online.

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