CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.
Mental Health in Students.
Mental health is still stigmatized today. Public stigma of mental health conditions include "the negative or discriminatory attitudes that others have about mental illness". Self stigma of a persons own mental health condition can include "internalized shame, that people with mental illness have about their own condition". The willingness to talk about mental health can be hard, especially due to the stigma surrounding it. Almost half of students applying to study at University do not share information about their mental health with their chosen University or College. Overall, "UCAS estimates that over 70,000 students may enter HE every year with a mental health condition, but 49% told a UCAS survey of first year students that they had not shared this information". Students should not have to suffer alone due to the stigma around mental health conditions; there should also be adequate support in system for the students that need it. A press release published in June 2022 stated that the Government would be rolling out up to "£3 million of investment to close the gaps between University and NHS services". This is a step forward in creating much more accessible mental health services and hubs for students. Previously, students have suffered from delays in accessing these services due to the immense pressure the Government has put on the NHS, now, there's a chance for the NHS to experience an ease in this pressure and for students to be able to access what they need. This article will discuss some useful tips for students that are struggling with their mental wellbeing.
8 Tips to look after your Mental Health.
1. Connect with other people.
Maintaining a relationship with friends and family is very important. Aim to spend physical time with friends and family in person and avoid only contacting them via social media as it's easy to get into a habit of only staying in touch via texting, emailing or messaging people.
eg. Arrange a day out with friends you haven't seen for a while, organise a facetime call with a friend you don't see much due to distance, have dinner with family or colleagues, volunteer at schools, hospitals, community centres to meet new people.
2. Live a healthy life.
Keeping active and healthy is beneficial for your physical health, but evidence also shows that it can also help improve your mental wellbeing. Being active and having a healthy balanced diet can help the way we feel. Binning bad habits like smoking and cutting down on alcohol/caffeine can promote a more positive mood.
eg. Look for activities and group fitness sessions to join, try using an exercise app at home, take up a sport like swimming, walking, running or yoga, make a weekly meal plan.
3. Be open to learning new skills and experiencing new things.
Learning new skills and trying out new experiences can help improve your mental wellbeing, by boosting self confidence and self esteem. Learning and trying something new could be something small and spontaneous or it could be something big that requires planning. Either way, it can help with building a sense of purpose and can also help you to connect with friends, family or even new people.
eg. Learn a new language, learn a new recipe, plan a holiday, work for a new qualification that excites you, learn sign language, work on an at-home project like redecorating.
4. Be in the present (mindfulness).
Be more mindful and live in the present. This can help you become more aware of your current thoughts and feelings which can improve your mental wellbeing. Don't worry about the future or things that have happened in the past, only focus on the current moment. This can also help how you feel about life and can improve the way you approach new challenges.
5. Get good sleep.
Make sure you get enough sleep each night. For an adult, it is advised that you should have between 7 and 9 hours sleep per night. Sleep quality can make a big difference to a persons mood and how they are feeling mentally and physically, so ensuring you have good quality sleep each night is important.
6. Have some 'me' time.
Doing things that make you happy is important, so take the time in your day to do something for yourself. Taking time to relax or enjoying your favourite hobby are some good starting points for this. Dedicate some time to focus on yourself.
eg. Have a relaxation or 'chill' day, spend time doing something that makes you happy.
7. Get closer to nature.
Nature can have a calming and soothing effect on the way you feel. Nature can help you feel calmer and at peace. Research found that "going for a walk was the UK adults' favourite way of coping with stress during the pandemic in 2020".
eg. Go for a walk in a park, try wild-water swimming, go on a camping trip.
8. Plan things to look forward to.
Having plans to look forward to can help you cope with challenges and difficult situations. Planning something you enjoy can help boost your sense of hope which is important for your mental wellbeing. Decide on something you would like to do, when you would like to do it and who you would like to do it with, book if need be and stick to the plan.
eg. A movie night at home with friends and family, go to a gig, plan a holiday with friends and family, go to the cinema or theatre, meet friends for a coffee.
It's important to remember that you aren't alone and that if you feel like these tips are not helping the way you feel about your mental wellbeing, then you should talk to a professional. Here are some useful resources for further help and contact information:
The NHS better health webpage discusses topics similar to that of this article in more detail with added videos.
The NHS urgent support webpage contains a lot of useful contact information for mental health support and crisis support.
The NHS offers counselling for student mental health problems.
Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity, which has a lot of information on their website.
Mind have a webpage full of information that is dedicated to coping with student life.