I was in my second year when it started. My friends were visiting from my hometown and my housemates and they were getting along famously! We had plans for the whole weekend, going out drinking, trying the new local breakfast place and to marathon as many movies as possible. Sounds exciting right? It should have been. Instead, the thought of having to even go outside, let alone do any of those things filled me with dread. I had been nagging at my friends to visit me for a whole year and when they were there I just wanted them to leave. I wanted to sit alone in my room and not see or speak to anyone, ever again. Instead I pushed these feelings deep down, did all those things with my friends, had a horrible time and steadily continued to ignore the way I was feeling for a further three months. It wasn't until I lost all my friends, rejected my family and had real problems at university that I realised that something needed to be done. Nobody should ever have to get to that point.
Starting university can be a daunting, with a new place, new classmates and new teachers.
Mental health issues are extremely common in students, with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, eating disorders and mental health suffering due to stress being the most reported.
Rethink mental illness, a mental health charity state that: “one in ten young people will experience a mental health problem.” So it’s really important to talk to someone if you are worried about your own mental health as soon as possible. The main thing to remember is that you are not alone, and there is help available. The sooner you get support, the better, as things will only get worse if you bottle things up all by yourself. Also, look after your friends. If they don’t seem themselves and you think they may be struggling, ask them how they are and let them know you are there for them, and will listen without judgement.
The stigma surrounding mental health issues is not helped by the different myths that people believe. Knowing some facts about mental health is a step forward in challenging negative and discriminative thoughts.
Myth: Mental health problems are very rare.
Fact: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
Myth: People with mental illness aren’t able to work. Fact: We probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem.
Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually violent and unpredictable. Fact: People with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence.
Myth: It’s easy for young people to talk to friends about their feelings.
Fact: Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.
Statistics show that over 50% of students don't feel comfortable admitting they're not coping to someone else. Rethink shed some advice on what first year students could do if they feel their mental health is suffering. “Talk to a trusted friend or relative, or to your GP. Many universities now have mental health support so you could ask what’s available.”
At the University Of Hertfordshire, we have a high quality Wellbeing Service who offer sessions with qualified and experienced counsellors accustomed to helping young people. This service is confidential. To access it, all you need to do is contact them for one of their four daily appointments firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by to make an appointment. They are based in the Hutton Hub on college lane campus and you can go there to speak to somebody if you need some advice or guidance.
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They can also provide a range of tried and tested self-help programmes and activities to improve your Wellbeing and, if your condition is long-term, (over a year), and you have the backing of your doctor or other health professional they can provide a Study Needs Agreement which will help ensure that there is support with study that is geared to your individual condition. Don’t feel that it is a sign of weakness to go there. Knowing you need help and getting it is a sign of strength and the first step to helping you get better.
Talking about mental illness is one of the best ways to not only reduce the negativity that surrounds mental illness, but beating it. A former UH student who wishes to remain anonymous has spoken to me about their experience with mental health during their time at university.
“Mental health is such a difficult thing to talk about. I did speak to my friend about it once, but she just said that I was just feeling sad because I was stressed, and because she’s my friend I kind of believed her. And because I didn't want to believe it was anything else. This feeling lasted for months and months though. I only sorted sorted myself because my parents found out. Over the Easter holidays I went home and tried to convince them that I shouldn't go back to uni. They knew something was wrong then.
I have learnt though that it can take a while, but with help you can get there. I still have depression, but receive help for it now. Times can still be pretty trying but if anything learning how to deal with my depression and that I’m not alone has taught me that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.”
Student wellbeing team:
Rethink Mental Health: www.rethink.org
Time to Change: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Facts taken from: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Article by Callie Watling. Callie is a Media Communications graduate. She has a passion for writing and aspires to have a career in journalism.
In the run up to, and on World Mental Health Day on the 10 October, the University of Hertfordshire is publishing a series of blog posts by alumni on how to manage your mental health at university. The blog posts in this series are also available in the magazine Fresh Start, which was distributed to Humanities students at the start of term.