Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma at University

With the University of Nottingham recently sending a powerful message to those refusing to spend money on help for mental health, and vast numbers of supporters coming out to try and decrease male suicides, it’s only right that this is a time to talk about mental health.

Some of you may think they’ve seen too much of this sort of writing, clogging up their news feed, and to those people, I urge you to read on. You are the ones who will benefit most from understanding this. Mental health at University is an ever growing problem. The stresses of work on top of tackling other commitments, relationships and judgement pile on top of many people. They’ve affected me, those close to me, and thousands if not tens of thousands of students across the country. We are provided with so many social challenges and pressures that we have to manoeuvre, so it’s great to see all Universities really striving to help that change. Right? Right?

As if. Many Universities are shunning the opportunity to truly help their students. At the University of Birmingham, there are only 6 trained counsellors available for students. No wonder the waiting list is so long, so long in fact that the Uni has previously suspended “Mental Health and Wellbeing” appointments due to overbearing demand.

With absolutely no respect at all, is it not a wake-up call to the institution when there is overwhelming demand for COUNSELLING that maybe they should employ more COUNSELLORS, or even still, actually acknowledge that we are facing a problem in this day and age that needs to be tackled head on instead of vaguely responding to student demands to try and maintain a solid cash flow. But that’s none of my business.

Ironic

It’s absolutely crucial we talk about mental health with regards to University. We get sold an image when we apply of a great social sphere, with the subject you love and all the open doors you could wish for. Partially true, but with an amalgamation of confusion, pressure and constant stress thrown into the mixing pot to make a fun three or four years for some, and a nasty fucker of a cocktail for others. What makes this worse, is that University is often the time where you have your most free time. Sounds great, but for a sufferer of depression or anxiety, that alone time can be horrible, hours of self-deprecation with what feels like no one around to help. Mix that with drugs or alcohol and it can be a very, very dangerous situation. Will Universities take notice at that point?

What will it take for Universities to take notice? It took the University of Bristol 11 student suicides in 2 years for them to take notice. Despite this, they now appear to have one of the best facilities available for mental health. Is that what it takes? 11 deaths per Uni? You’d think not, or at least hope not, but that appears to be the current benchmark. I understand University is about independence, but there has to be more support and welfare available for students. We are advertised strong welfare support before University, but that appears to be a pipe dream.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

Winston Churchill

Finally, I want to address those who have been struggling, fear they may be starting to struggle, or anyone who ever needs support. You are not alone. You deserve support, and you deserve your own happiness. There are people out there who love you, and they will support you if you need them. My tips for helping anyone who has suffered are as follows:

  1. Confide in someone you trust – it can be scary talking to anyone, but the closest people to you are often the ones who will help the most (family/friends)
  2. If your Uni’s facilities are useless, use the NHS – many of the NHS mental health clinics are very good, and can judge what is the best support for you
  3. Mental health hotlines can be very useful – as a starting point or as a continuous aid, someone on the end of the phone to talk to is always useful, especially in the worst of times
  4. Be honest with yourself and rationalise your thoughts – despite being difficult, this is the thing that could save you when you’re alone with your negativity. Realising you are suffering, and that you are allowed to feel this way can often lift a pressure off your shoulders

These are all from my own experiences. I urge you to leave comments with other methods to help your mental health issues. Everyone struggles in a different way. The only way we can truly start to help everyone is by breaking the stigma. It’s okay to open up. It’s okay to talk. It’s okay to feel. Most importantly, you deserve happiness. Everyone does.

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