Managing mental health at university

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Our editor Lucy is here with advice for managing mental health conditions during your time at uni. 
Society has come a long way in its acceptance of mental illness, but still the fear of being stigmatised or judged prevents so many of us from speaking out. Rather, we suffer in silence, and mask how we are feeling so that we are the last people you would expect to be struggling.

As a sufferer of a major depression, I know how isolated you can feel at university (think small fish in a big pond). It’s a high stress environment with non-stop work and non-stop partying, and more often than not you’ve moved away from home. It’s natural if sometimes you feel things are getting a bit too much.

No two mental health experiences are the same, but there are some key things that you can do to help you cope with day to day life. When you look back you’ll be so happy you found the strength to help yourself: even the longest and most difficult journeys start with one small step.

Talk to someone

This is probably the hardest thing to do, because you’re also admitting to yourself that there’s a problem. It’s terribly daunting to admit that you’re not feeling yourself, so it’s natural to feel a bit afraid to say it out loud.

Make an appointment with your GP, just to have a chat about things. This is a huge step – it took me two years to stop hanging up when the receptionist answered! – But as soon as you’ve done it, you’ve got the ball rolling. Remember, it is absolutely NOT a sign of weakness – in fact it shows just how strong you really are.

Don’t be afraid of the outcome

Many people find the idea of having something wrong with them horrifying.

One of my biggest fears was being told that I had an illness that needed treatment. From what I’d read online, in books, or seen on television I thought that medication would turn me into a vegetable. This is definitely not the case.

Drug reatment is just another part of feeling yourself again; it is so much more common than you think and definitely doesn’t make you a weirdo. Talking to someone, such as a counsellor, is another form of support and allows you to talk to somebody who genuinely wants to help and is qualified to do so.


Tell your family or a loved one

Not everybody is in the position to do this as everyone’s circumstances differ. It can be really difficult to tell family and friends, but if you can, let those close to you know that you’ve been having a hard time. They love you and will want to support you through this.

Know that there’s no harm in taking some time out

Don’t be hard on yourself – if you feel you need some time off, speak to the necessary people so you can take it. There are plenty of support services at university that can arrange this for you, you only have to ask. Don’t worry about what people might think of you not being around, remember that your wellbeing is more important.

Look after yourself

Don’t try to take on too much – make time to relax in between studying; read a book, do some yoga, go for a short walk every now and then.

Alcohol is not going to help either, so pace yourself on a night out. Make sure you get enough sleep – burning the candle at both ends leaves you feeling drained and down about things.

Remember the things that you enjoy and take some time each week to do them.

If you’re feeling worthless, anxious, suffer from panic attacks, aren’t eating/sleeping normally, or you just feel that something’s not right and you aren’t yourself, please talk to somebody so you can get  yourself back on track.

There doesn’t have to be a reason for the way that you’re feeling, but there is a reason for you to seek help: you deserve it. Be proud of who you are and be strong enough to share your battles – you’re not alone.


Words by Lucy Abbersteen

Aminah Khan is your Editor-in-Chief

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