Diary of a Student: Mental Health at University
One of the big expectations of university is to be having the time of your life.
But what happens when you stop enjoying yourself?
Life at any university will always be entirely unique, depending on the individual. It may be filled with ups and downs, full of loops and turns, yet collectively, it can only be described as ambiguous; you will never truly know what lies ahead.
As a university student myself, I have had firsthand experience dealing with a vast scale of completely new and overwhelming social and academic pressures. One of these has been the expectation to have the time of your life. Of course, this doesn’t deceive. It’s hard to deny that attending university will introduce you to life-long friendships which in turn will lead to a diverse array of unforgettable memories.
This being said in all its truthful nature, I’m going to impose a very different perception of university life, starting by posing a question: What if you don’t live up to this exclusive expectation? In other words: What if you stop enjoying yourself?
You begin to feel desperately homesick, tied down by assignments and suddenly your feelings begin to manifest. You couldn’t imagine exposing your negative emotions as you oppose this conventional attitude, one which every university student is supposedly meant to adopt. So what if this happens? Do you bottle up your feelings, allowing them to augment themselves or do you acknowledge them and speak up?
To put this into perspective: data recorded from 2014 through to 2015 which so far is the most up-to-date, highlighted that 1,180 university students in the UK dropped their studies due to an underlying mental health condition.
Reading this information struck a nerve, evoking a deep notion of empathy within me. I felt caught off guard. Statistics don’t usually affect me like this as I recognise the simplicity of transposing someone else’s harrowing reality into facts and figures. Technically, I couldn’t relate but in an emotional sense I could; memories of suffering with anxiety in high school came flooding back and suddenly I could envision myself potentially being in a similar situation.
Nevertheless, I found it difficult to comprehend why so many young people-enduring a struggle similar to my own- felt compelled to abandon their passion. After all, university was once a foreseeable pathway towards the fulfilment of their aspirations. An ambition doesn’t simply disappear, dreams are hard to destroy. So this makes me wonder. Would this statistic be smaller if only there was more support? Contrastingly, if there were available support methods how well was this advertised?
When I suffered from anxiety in high school, my emotions were constantly invalidated. I had little support available to me and how I felt was deemed as absurd, despite the fact that anxiety is an extremely common issue. I was told to cast my mental state aside, focus on my studies and forget. Bluntly, I was told to deal with it.
The thing is, that was all. I had to deal with it, but nobody could explain how.
Since coming to study at Falmouth University however, things have taken a turn for the better. Here, they have a fantastic support system, including free access to basic counselling which offers support with issues ranging from a lack in confidence to depression and bereavement. I suppose simply knowing it’s there places my mind at ease.
My new-found mindfulness stemming from this gave me an incentive to create my own ways of combating my mental health. All of which now play an important role within my university life.
Here’s a few things I personally do to take care of my mental health at university:
Take a break. Get away from the university work-load. Find a means of escapism. Perhaps, one good way of doing this is to go on a walk around campus or anywhere that makes you feel most relaxed. Doing this helps to cleanse the mind, creating a space for all-important time to self-reflect. Immersing yourself amongst nature also generates a sense of detachment, allowing you to dissociate from the environment you are used to working in. At times, you need this brief get away from your usual scenery in order to feel at ease.
Engaging in a passion:
For me, writing my own original music also gives me a sense of much-needed release. Composing holds a deep personal value to me. It’s my way of articulating my feelings without specifically describing them.
Of course, this type of self-expression can arise from any passion, not just an expressive art. Engaging with a passion is a brilliant way to cast aside negative emotions and exert your energy into something positive.
I personally take note of my feelings in a thoughts journal. Not only does this allow me to project how I feel upon paper but also doing this was wholly beneficial when it came to taking with a counsellor. The truth is, you may be talking to a professional but they can’t help you if you are unable to articulate exactly how you feel.
Talking to someone:
When struggling mentally, the worst mistake you can make is to isolate yourself. Some avoid speaking up due to the stigma attached to the prospect of it. At first this is exactly what I did. I interrogated myself with questions: What if it’s too emotionally exposing? What if they patronise me? Will this be a waste of time? Imposing questions like these isn’t out of the ordinary. However, you must acknowledge that these questions will always remain enigmatic until you experience what it’s actually like to talk to someone.
Counselling, whether provided by your university or a GP, will not only rid you of suppressed thoughts but it will also present you with new coping/healing techniques which perhaps, you have never even considered before.
There can be times when the aforementioned methods don’t directly connect with you or reach the depth of your problems. If you feel as though you need to talk with someone urgently and anonymously; Samaritans have a free 24-hour number you can text or call confidentially.
I must finally emphasize something crucial, enduring a mental health related issue at university or in any other situation is not an unusual phenomenon. It only reinforces the fact that we emote, that we are human.
Samaritans UK: 116 123
Falmouth University services
Telephone: 01326 370 460
Data obtained at:
by Amber Martin