Use your head: mental health is a real problem

mental healthMental health problems at University is a widely-discussed topic in the media at the moment. Whilst people are focused on why so many students are being diagnosed with mental illness, perhaps more worrying is the fact that, according to a recent NUS survey, many students aren’t even reporting their mental health issues.

Coming to University can bring out problems that weren’t as apparent at home. The combination of drinking culture and many late nights certainly does not help if you are suffering with mental health issues. Coming to a flat full of new peers on whom you want to make a good impression whilst struggling with mental problems of your own can be very daunting, and problems which stay hidden often rear their ugly head twice as high later on. Even simple things such as not having people getting you up in the morning like when you were at home can end up with you being left alone with your thoughts.

On top of this, money pressures are loaded on to students, possibly for the first time in their lives, which adds another thing to worry about. Taking responsibility for you own finances and health takes up a lot of energy and no doubt if you are suffering for an underlying mental health issue it will only help to bring it to the fore.

So, if going to University can highlight existing mental health issues, why aren’t students seeking help? One very prevalent reason is because of the stigma attached to it. Mental health is not treated like physical health, even though it is just as real. The media paints people with mental health problems as dangerous, even though they are statistically far more of a danger to themselves than they are to others and 95% of homicides are committed by someone with no diagnosed problem. There’s also stereotyping – people with diseases such as bipolar are sexualized and people with depression are seen as useless. All of this is something that you just wouldn’t get if you were bed-ridden with appendicitis instead of malfunctioning serotonin synapses in your brain.

Some people also think that mental health doesn’t need the same level of treatment, but because they are diseases like any other, they very much do! For example, someone with diabetes wouldn’t stop taking their insulin just because they felt better and people with asthma aren’t told to stop taking their inhalers and to ‘just get over it’. However, people with mental health issues are often told by their peers and the media that they don’t need treatment, that they can just ‘cheer up’ or ‘get over it’ or that ‘time is a great healer.’ Mental health needs compassion, treatment and care, just as much as physical health does.

We are lucky to be at a University with an on-campus medical centre and Open Door team, both of which are confidential. Regardless of the complaints about the under-staffing of both, they are still there to help and they are still effective. On the whole, you won’t be waiting for more than two weeks for an appointment, and they can usually speed things along if you’re desperate. Nightline is also good if you just need someone to listen. www.mind.org.uk is a really good website, full of helpful advice and information for those who suffer from mental health problems and their friends and family.

If you feel like you might be suffering from a mental health problem, or are having suicidal thoughts, I implore you to seek help. It is completely confidential. I know the hardest bit is going, and admitting to yourself that you might have a problem, but it is so worth it.

8 Comments

  1. Champs
    02 June 2013 - 15:32 GMT

    The Open Door team can’t be praised enough. I can’t imagine how I’d have got this close to finishing my degree without them on hand.

    Pulled me out of some genuinely dark times. Wonderful people- can’t recommend going to see them enough, if you’re struggling to cope.

  2. 02 June 2013 - 22:28 GMT

    Good article, Helena! Mental health problems are more common than many people think, and we should be open to discussing them as much as possible.

    To expand on your comparison with diabetes/asthma, we know that, like these diseases, there is a strong genetic component influencing mental health. Some people are, unfortunately, more susceptible to depression and anxiety simply because of their genes. BUT this shouldn’t be taken to mean mental ill health is unavoidable; it can be reduced through a combination of behavioural change and medication. Just yesterday I read about a new antidepressant that is currently reporting good success in clinical trials:
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-05-ketamine-cousin-rapidly-depression-side.html

  3. William Ewart Gladstone
    03 June 2013 - 00:16 GMT

    Fantastic article exposing a scandalously undersung issue, particularly at University. A massive issue with Mental Illness seems to be that people don’t really even realize they suffer from it, all that it’s otherwise impossible tell, for many people I know, particularly since University it comes down to an issue of whether whatever there experiencing is just “a thing” or “a bad few weeks” or an actual mental illness, and from what it seems professional medical science doesn’t seem to know much more, or at least not as much as it would care to admit.

    For that reason people who suffer from these sort of issues can be left feeling even more alone and helpless than they already would naturally, particularly in a halls environment haven only recently left there parents.

  4. Thomas Ron
    03 June 2013 - 09:14 GMT

    This is a very good article. Helena is absolutely right about the stigma that countless people face about mental health conditions and neurodiversity. As Disable Students’ Officer it is important for me to fight this stigma and I intend to do so with events throughout the next term. The Open Door Team has been absolutely stellar but there is so much more to do, and I believe that we must take action now

  5. Hmn
    03 June 2013 - 12:43 GMT

    So why are you not running a mental health awareness week this year Tom as has happened in the previous two? Saying you’re committed is one thing, actually doing something to tackle it is another…

  6. Thomas Ron
    03 June 2013 - 12:49 GMT

    Members of the Network have suggested running an event to coincide with Autism Awareness Week. A member of the Network has asked to be able to run it himself as he is leaving in the year. I felt that it would be a good commemoration of his service. Additionally, it is a month within my term. I will run the week as well next term, that is a guarantee

  7. @Hmn
    03 June 2013 - 12:57 GMT

    Tom is doing a very good job as Disabled Officer. He has already done a lot not just for disabled students but for all in such a short space of time. Why don’t you just get a life stop wasting your time trolling him in a weird obsessive way and get on with your life. He is the only person for the disabled officer role and I like many many people on campus are glad he got the position. Go eat a mini milk or something

  8. @@Hmn
    03 June 2013 - 13:43 GMT

    So now someone is not allowed to voice an opinion or criticism of the way an officer is doing their job?
    He didn’t personally insult Thomas, he was just critical of something he apparently hasn’t done, and even phrased it as a question rather than just slander.

Comments are closed.