Did you know that most mental health issues arise before the age of 24? As such, students are a prime target for suffering poor mental health – something which will impact one in four of us.
It is something that all of us at Student Rooms 4 U take very seriously and we value all our students as individuals, know most by first name and offer support, guidance and signposting where possible.
Depression can strike at times of great upheaval, change and turmoil in one’s life, and so students also fit the bill – coming to uni means moving away from friends, family, and everything familiar to you. Universities are seeing students with mental health issues more than ever – this has more to do with a more open disclosure of issues than before, rather than a dramatic increase in mental health issues, but it can’t be denied that there are certain pressures on young people that didn’t exist in decades gone by. In this article we will outline how you can identify a potential mental health issue in yourself or in friends, what you can do to combat poor mental health, and ways in which to seek help.
What is poor mental health?
Just like problems to do with physical health, a mental health issue impairs you from living life how you should be. It might be a short-term problem brought on by something specific, like a traumatic event, or it could be more deep-rooted and be something you need to deal with long-term. Here are some symptoms of poor mental health.
- Prolonged depression: not just having a bad day, ‘feeling blue’ or temporarily lacking happiness in your life. Depression is negative thoughts and feelings that refuse to go away, sometimes abating but ultimately returning, and getting worse at times of peak stress and sadness.
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns – whether you’re sleeping/eating way more or less than normal, it could be a sign of something on your mind. Mental health issues affect people differently and so it won’t be the same for everyone – just look for signs that are out of the ordinary.
- Social withdrawal – wanting to spend less time with friends and family and wanting to be alone.
- Excessive worrying – we all have periods of worry in our life, but if the worrying becomes unbearable, or you are plagued with fear and anxieties, it’s a sign to take note of.
- Strange or confused thoughts – not being able to think clearly, or feeling convinced of things which don’t seem quite right.
- Suicidal thoughts or self-harm. Feeling hopeless.
- Inability to cope with minor problems, or even in completing minor tasks like cooking a meal or completing an essay.
- Substance use, often to escape from reality.
- Bursts of anger, violence, or reactions that are contrary to your nature.
How to combat poor mental health
While it’s important to seek help or medical advice if you think you suffer from poor mental health, there are also things you can do to combat it yourself. It might be worth trying out a few of these yourself before seeking professional help, particularly if you feel that your mental health issue isn’t yet unbearable:
- Gentle exercise releases endorphins which help to make you feel happy and positive.
- Going for walks in pleasant surrounds are not only a good form of gentle exercise, but many people find that being surrounded by nature has a calming, soothing element.
- Relaxation techniques such as taking up yoga, tai chi and meditation. Many universities have societies you can join to practice these techniques.
- Eating well can be great for your mental health as well as your physical health – eating a balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and veg, will give you more energy too. Also, many people find cooking to be therapeutic and stress-busting.
- As well as eating well, watch what you drink. Most people don’t drink enough water throughout the day – about two litres is optimal to keep you healthy and hydrated. Avoid hot beverages with lots of dairy (as this can make you sluggish) and don’t always just plump for coffee – green tea has plenty of benefits, too. Also, watch your alcohol intake.
- Spend time with friends, even if you don’t always feel like it. Feel encouraged to be open with your friends if you’re feeling negative.
- Keeping a good routine can help, too – whether your schedule is filled up with classes or free periods, make sure you’re occupied – join clubs, do weekly exercise routines, arrange to meet up with friends, or volunteer. Doing something like volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself, too.
If you feel like your mental health issues require professional help, don’t bottle it up – reach out and gain advice.
You can turn up to a drop-in session or book an appointment. The service is confidential and can help you work out strategies for coping or getting further assistance.
They provide confidential support 24/7 to those experiencing despair, distress or suicidal feelings. Call 08457 90 90 90.
Mind provides advice and support to anyone experiencing mental health issues. Their mental health line is 0300 123 3393.
SANE is another mental health charity that has a helpline you can call for advice: 0300 304 7000.
This is a charity specifically for those experiencing mental health issues while studying. Call them on 01635 869754.
There are numerous other websites and links listed on the TASC website, so don’t put it off if you need to speak to someone – there will always be a friendly voice at the other end of the line waiting to give you the support you need.
If you are facing some challenges then call us at Student Rooms 4 U and we will offer support, guidance and signposting, where possible.