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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mental Health Support for Students

Mental Health as a Student

One in four people will experience some form of mental health issue this year. So if you’re feeling isolated, embarrassed or alone and it’s stopping you from getting help, try to realise that mental health issues are so much more common than you would think.

Your university days can be some of the most fun and rewarding of your life, but they can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety, exacerbating underlying mental health conditions.

Students understandably feel pressure to perform given the less than promising job prospects they face. Many are worried about the debts they’re racketing up and some students struggle with loneliness after being suddenly plucked from their home and their support network of friends and family.

Most students aren’t taking enough care of themselves either. Student life often involves eating unhealthy food, not doing enough exercise and drinking heavily, which can be a depressant in itself.

A new survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) has found that 26 per cent of the students they spoke to don’t get any treatment for their mental health and even fewer make use of their university’s counselling services.

So what help is available?

Help for students

  • Get moving
Although going for a run is the last thing you feel like when you’re feeling blue, it’s exactly what your body needs. This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week which took place in early May focused on the benefits exercise can bring to people suffering from a mental health issue.

Exercising releases endorphins into our body (happy chemicals), flooding us with instant feel-good chemicals naturally. And exercising in a group gives you the added benefit of interacting and bonding with people, so try to sign up for a team sport or join a running group instead of flying solo.

Most universities have sports clubs and gyms on-site which are either free to join or are subsidised, so why not make use of them?

  • Speak to somebody
As the NUS survey has found, most university counselling services are underused. But they can be an invaluable source of support when you need it most, without long waiting times. Most offer free support in group or individual sessions to help you work out some of your problems or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT); a technique that has helped many people address negative thought patterns. As well as providing you with a listening ear, they could even give you practical help by speaking to your tutor or another university department.

If you have a persistent mental health problem, you should speak to your GP about your issues. They may prescribe you something if they feel it’s appropriate or refer you to the right person.

If you don’t feel ready to speak to somebody face to face, you could call a counselling helpline (which is often included in many health cash plans) if you’d like to talk things over anonymously with a trained medical professional.

There are also some great charities which can provide you with a bit of extra support. The Samaritans are always on the line to hear you out, but they are staffed by well-meaning volunteers, not trained counsellors or psychiatrists. And mental health charity Mind’s website is full of resources to help you understand your condition more while their network of volunteers across Britain can help you with anything from getting a job while living with a mental illness to arranging for you to speak to someone.

Have you or someone you know been affected by mental illness?


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