Coming to university can be a big adjustment. It’s the first time you’ve moved out, you’re in a new city with new people, a lot of work to do and not to mention you need to learn how to manage your own finances. The social pressure of making friends and fitting in can be time consuming enough, and on top of that you need to stay on top of your work? It comes to no surprise that a third of university students experience serious emotional and mental health issues. Although so many students suffer from mental health difficulties, only around 25% of them access support.
Mental health at university and lifting the stigma
It can be very hard to open up about the way you feel, even if you want to. It makes us feel vulnerable and we might be scared of being judged. It’s important to know that you are not alone. More and more people are willing to talk about their own wellbeing and by doing this lifting the stigma that surrounds the topic. Over the last decade there has been a 450% increase in students sharing that they have a mental health condition. The stigma of mental health affects us all, but especially men. Women are 2.2 times more likely to declare they have a mental health condition than men. It is important to break the stigma and empower men to talk about their struggles. Charities such as MANUP? are helping make this possible.
What makes students more susceptible to mental health problems?
First off is age. Most students are under the age of 25 and three quarters of adults with mental illness experience it for the first time before the age of 25. Alongside this the stress of being at university can lead to depression and anxiety. Being away from family and friends can make many students feel as though they don’t have a good support system around them, this can increase vulnerability towards mental illnesses.
What to do if you’re struggling with mental health at university?
There are many things you can do to help improve your wellbeing at university. One of them is how to manage your stress. Sometimes we can’t avoid stressful situations or periods such as exam time. However we can try to manage the stress we are under. Sharing the burden with friends, family or maybe a tutor can help reduce the pressure we feel on us. If you know that a stressful period is coming up, prepare yourself for it. You can do this by planning time off around it or plan an activity to relieve the stress afterwards.
The red cross suggests to look at the below list to see what may help you reduce stress:
· healthy eating
· taking regular breaks
· good sleeping patterns
· physical exercise or activities
· breathing and relaxation exercises
· managing your time well
· talking to people
Where to get help
Although there are many ways to relieve stress and increase wellbeing by yourself, it is important to know when to reach out and to who.
It’s important to talk to those closest to you, let them know how you are feeling. For many people this can be a great form of support. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or need help from a professional there are many places you can go for help.
Most universities have free and confidential counselling services that you can turn to. Another place to look for help at university is the student union. Student-led services can be great if you’d rather talk to another student than a professional counsellor.
There are also a number of great charities offering mental health support specifically for students. Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity empowering students to “to look after their own mental health, support others and create change”.
If you want to find out more ways in which you can access help make sure to check the NHS website.
How to help a friend
If you have noticed a change in your friends mood or behaviour it is important to check in. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to approach the topic, especially if they aren’t open about their emotions or they’re a newer friend.
When approaching a friend it is important to keep these things in mind:
· Practice active listening
· Don't compare
· Ask what you can do
· Keep your word
· Don't judge
· Offer to join them
· Know when more serious help is needed
For more information click here.
It’s safe to say that being at university comes with a lot of different factors that can affect your wellbeing. Therefore it is important for us to talk more about the topic, lift the stigma and make help accessible to all.
To read more about how mental health issues can be hidden in plain sight click here.