First off, let me say how intensely jealous I am of you. I’m 5 months into the world of full-time graduate work, and whilst it’s as wonderful as working ever can be, I kind of wish I didn’t have to get up at 6:00am every day.
Secondly, I know you’re probably stressed. You’re probably up to your eyeballs in essays and deadlines and projects and lab work, when really all you want to do is take a nap. You also might be depressed. Or anxious. Or struggling with your eating disorder.
I know this, because I was you. I was there. Crying in my room at 3pm, unable to physically attend my seminar because everything felt so bleak. Wondering whether to drop out or walk in front of a bus. Wishing I could just be like every other person and have a normal university experience.
But I’m here to tell you that, as cliché as it sounds, it gets better. You will get through this. You might just need some help along the way.
And that’s where I come in. Here are all the things I wish I’d known about dealing with mental health at university or college. Because mental health is hard; and university hard; and putting the two together is really fucking hard.
1. Other people are struggling with mental health at university
It can be easy, especially in your first year, to feel like you’re the only one struggling with mental health at university. As you watch all your friends, classmates, and flatmates go out night after night or attend seminars and socials, it can feel like you’re the only student who feels this way – or has ever felt this way.
I can tell you now that that’s categorically untrue. If you take the time to speak to your fellow classmates, you’ll realise that they too are struggling with the pressures of living away from home, studying full time, paying bills, cooking dinner, and all the other things that make up university.
So next time a friend or flatmate asks you how you are, tell them honestly. Tell them you’re not coping very well. You’ll be surprised at how many of them can relate.
2. Locate the source of your struggles
Sometimes, your mental health is bad for no apparent reason; or sometimes it’s because you’re suffering from a specific mental illness that is to do with the chemicals in your brain. Sometimes, however, it’s because of a very specific factor.
If your’e struggling with your mental health at university, sit down and try and pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making you feel bad.
For me it was the sudden lack of structure; for some of my friends it was their financial troubles and lack of money. If you can identify the root of the problem, you can take steps to solve it.
3. Seek professional help
It’s the most touted mental health advice around for a reason: it works. If you’re struggling with your mental health at university, the best thing you can do is get help.
Most universities have a range of solutions for students that are having problems with their mental health. Whether it’s a crisis hotline that you can call in an emergency, a free, campus counseling service that will listen to your problems, or a university health practice that can help you with medication, your university is bound to have support available.
If your mental health struggles are caused by a specific problem, you can also seek help for solving those issues. If, for example, your mental health problems are being exacerbated by financial worries, your university may have bursaries available to students in need that could help. If you’re studying in the US and the pressure of student loans is causing you worry, you can also look into refinancing your student loans once you’ve graduated, to give you peace of mind.
Whatever the cause of your worries – whether it’s money, social life, or just faulty brain chemistry – know that there are people and resources available to help you.