CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
University has many highs and lows; it is the beginning of many young adults' lives with newfound independence and responsibilities that the majority haven't had to deal with before. While it can introduce amazing experiences, new friends and hobbies, it can also be really challenging to navigate.
Mental health's impacts on students
Over 37% of UK students have reported experiencing a change in their state of mental wellbeing changing for the worse since starting university and 50% have considered dropping out of their studies because of their mental health. While university life isn't for everyone, this is a worrying statistic and is clear that more support is needed for students.
"Students are at higher risk of developing mental health problems with research showing many people first experience mental health problems or first seek help when they are at university." - Mind, 2018
Common student mental health problems
Depression is the most diagnosed mental health problem among students. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life. Symptoms of depression include feeling unhappy or hopeless, low self-esteem and finding no pleasure in things you usually enjoy.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues among students. Anxiety is a feeling of being worried, tense or afraid for a long period of time, mostly about things which are about to happen or worrying about what may happen in the future. It can affect your ability to go about your daily life activities and also ultimately affect your ability to live life to the fullest.
Incidents of suicide at universities are more highly reported than in the general population. Suicide can have a significant impact on university communities. Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.
What are warning signs to look out for?
Whether you are worried about your own mental health or your friends, these are some potential warning signs that may be linked to mental health issues.
Disengaging from your studies or hobbies/ commitments
Isolating, socially withdrawing
Problems with motivation and concentration.
Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
Indulging in addictive behaviours or taking unnecessary risks - such as using drugs or alcohol.
Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues and physical pain - there's a strong connection between the mind and body.
Low mood or increased irritability.
Lack of energy and motivation.
Constantly feeling tearful, angry or on edge.
Not looking after yourself, hygiene issues.
While no two people are the same when it comes to mental health these are basic warning signs that indicate something may not be right. You could be experiencing all or none of these symptoms, if you feel low it's always the best idea to reach out for help. The first step to accessing help is acknowledging how you feel and admitting you are struggling.
What help is there?
A first point of call is talking to your friends and family, talking about how you are feeling can relieve a massive weight of your shoulders. Keeping it to yourself can make you feel even more alone and isolated and reaching out is a first step to helping this. If it's not you suffering, make sure you are keeping an eye out for your friends and always be there for them.
Talk to your GP, if you are worried about your own mental health get in contact with your doctor, they can give you a medical diagnosis and refer you to the right services.
Charities and organisations such as Mind UK, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Papyrus, Sane and Student Minds provide excellent information, advice and support. Samaritans are also available 24 hours a day, every day if you need someone to talk to.
All university's also have a student well-being service which can provide support so its 100% worthwhile to make the most of the services.