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Looking After Your Mental Health At University

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Becoming a student at university is an exciting time. It's a big new adventure and one that will open new paths for your future. But it can also be a very trying time. For many students, the university experience isn't quite what they expected, and the pressure becomes overwhelming.

For someone who struggles with a mental health condition, this can be extremely rough. Moving away from home, trying to make new friends and figuring out who you're going to be as an adult are all stressful triggers that can make mental health conditions worse.

Some students are able to join study groups, go to parties or join clubs easily. But if you struggle with mental health, you might find that you isolate yourself due to fear of rejection or judgement. This is dangerous because it makes you feel more alone. When in fact, you're not alone at all.

Mental health issues are common among students

A recent survey reported that one in five university students have a current mental health diagnosis. As the newness and excitement of university life eventually wears off, and pressure starts to set in, students are becoming more stressed and withdrawn and their mental health suffers.

The survey showed that those in their second and third year were at significantly higher risk than the first-year students for feelings of worry and loneliness, with instances of substance misuse, and thoughts of self-harm not uncommon.

These students should feel encouraged to reach out and talk to someone, but unfortunately, not all universities are equipped to deal with mental health conditions properly. Students find themselves on waiting lists to see counsellors, and the wait times were anything but quick. This leaves students suffering from mental health disorders to wonder if they really matter if anyone really cares. And that's a very dark and dangerous path for anyone to travel down.

The consequences can be tragic

Without adequate professional help available on campus, and fear of judgement stopping them from talking to their peers, tragically, many students lose their battle with mental illness.

In the past decade, student suicide rates have increased, and the latest figures show that there is one student suicide every four days.

You might know someone with a mental health condition

If you're reading this, and don't suffer from a mental health condition, chances are you know someone who does. You just might not know it.

It’s estimated that more than three-quarters of students have concealed their symptoms due to fears of stigma. This means some of your own friends might be hiding their pain, fears and worries from you because they're too afraid to reach out. This is dangerous because when mental illness is left unacknowledged and untreated can have serious consequences.

So what can you do? Make yourself available. Try to understand more about mental health, and if you think you see signs in one of your fellow students, reach out. Be considerate. And be willing to listen. That act of kindness could go a long way.

Mental health is just as important as physical health

We constantly hear doctors, celebrities and the media openly discussing the importance of physical health. Even though mental health is just as vital, it's talked about significantly less.

Because of this, many who don't suffer from or have first-hand experience of mental health conditions don't fully understand them. Unfortunately, it's common for people to be afraid of what they don't understand. And this builds a barrier between those with good mental health and those suffering from conditions such as anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia and depression.

It's important to talk about it

For so many reasons, it's important to open up the discussion about mental health.

One of the most common questions in those suffering from mental health conditions is, "Am I the only one who feels this way?" The answer is most definitely ‘no’.

It’s easy to think that everyone around you is perfectly happy and ‘normal’. This might make you feel that your own mental health problems are a rarity and that you’re in a minority. Too often, this causes you to hide your mental health condition since you've convinced yourself that no one will understand.

But consider this, your friends may look happy on their social media posts but this might not be a true reflection of what’s going off in their private lives. The person sat next to you in class might seem perfectly fine but they may be hiding their fears and anxieties deep inside.

The truth is that many more people have mental health issues than you’d imagine.

When you should get help

It's perfectly normal to feel worried and stressed out over an upcoming project or deadline. But if you feel anxious so often it's affecting your daily activities, then it's time to get help.

Below are a few signs to help you identify mental health conditions in yourself or others:

  • Feeling low all the time
  • Feeling extremely anxious or agitated
  • Becoming overwhelmed easily
  • Losing interest in things you used to love
  • Losing motivation
  • Putting on or losing weight
  • Caring less about your personal hygiene
  • Isolating yourself
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having thoughts of self-harm

It's important to talk to someone when you see these signs manifesting themselves, either in yourself or someone near you.

If you're suffering from a mental health disorder, it can feel very overwhelming. Simply sharing your burden with someone else will bring you more peace of mind than you can imagine, and it can help remind you that you're not alone.

It won't fix all your problems, but it's a great start to know that you don't have to tackle this all by yourself. Consistent therapy or counselling can help provide you with coping mechanisms and strategies to manage your anxiety or depression. It offers you a safe space, where you can work through your emotions and track the source of some of your unhappiness or fears. Therapy can help you find yourself again, no matter how lost you've been feeling.

Sheffield Universities offer great support for mental health wellbeing and want you to know that you always have someone to turn to. For more information and support please refer to Sheffield University Mental Health Support or the Sheffield Hallam University Student Wellbeing Service.

If you're looking for a safe and friendly place to call home during your university years contact us today.

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