We Need to Talk About Mental Health at University

Before going to university, you are likely to have been told that you should sit back and enjoy the ride because you are going to have the best three years of your life. People highlight the partying, the luxury of time you have to sleep, the budding social life, their own accounts of what fun a society can offer and their general enthusiasm for their former years. People rarely brace you for the other aspect of university, which is the very real presence of mental health issues.

Leaving home to start a life in a completely new place with no sense of familiarity can be daunting. Combined with the pressure to make sure that you have the best years of your life, university can be overwhelming at times. Something I was not warned of before coming to Exeter was that not every moment of these three years of study is going to be the happiest time of your life. When you return home for the holidays you might find that people are asking you, “Are you loving uni?”, expecting a big grin and for you to claim love of the uni life, whatever that really means. The experience of going to university is a completely new experience for young people, and whilst that offers the potential for a great amount of happiness, it also presents a new window for various mental health issues.

Everyone around you has completely different pasts, experiences, and potentially traumas that they have gone through in their lives, and people need to be supported in different ways. Suicide rates are among their highest with young people, with a particular trend being identifiable among university students. Mental health at university is something we need to keep talking about.

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Today is World Mental Health Day and here is a list of things we can do to positively impact mental health at uni:

  • Talk about your wellbeing – as simple as it may sound, talking about how you feel is such a positive step. This could be to a friend, housemate, tutor or member of the Wellbeing Services at the University.
  • Learn about the Wellbeing Services available at the University – not only is it beneficial for you to be educated in what the University can offer in terms of mental health services, it can also be useful when having conversations with your friends to make them aware of what is available to them.
  • Check-in with the people in your life – check in with that friend who no one has seen in a while, listen to your friend’s troubles, ask people how their day is going.

Furthermore, here is a list of some of the resources the University offers for mental health:

Mental Health Drop-Ins – Wellbeing Services at the University offer drop-in sessions with information and advice. https://www.exeter.ac.uk/wellbeing/mental_health/mentalhealthdrop-insessions/

Mental Health Appointments – the Wellbeing Services also offer appointments to discuss your mental wellbeing. https://www.exeter.ac.uk/wellbeing/mental_health/appointment-request/

Exeter Student Minds – offer a support group focused on positive minds helping to build strategies to maintain a positive mood throughout university. https://www.facebook.com/ExeterPositiveMinds/

Exeter Student Nightline – a helpline that is open from 8pm to 8am every night during term time. The service is run by students for students to talk about any issues you may be facing. The service is anonymous and confidential. Their phone number can be found on the back of your student card, or you can find Skype or Instant Messaging service links on their website. “We’ll listen, not lecture”. https://exeter.nightline.ac.uk

Online resources – the University offers advice for self-help in addition to peer support. https://www.exeter.ac.uk/wellbeing/support/self-helpandpeersupport/

Cesca Getty

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