Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Mental Health and Freshers

Leanne discusses how sometimes, moving away and being in a new city alone can be overwhelming, and offers advice on how to overcome these feelings as well as appropriate sources to contact if you are struggling.
-Leanne Hall

Going to university is supposed to be the best time of your life. But for some people, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and I know that first hand. It can be scary, lonely and all together daunting. Eight out of ten students (78%) have experienced mental health issues according to a study by NUS, it’s time to speak up about it.

I first came to university when I was 18 and I left after two seemingly long and treacherous weeks. Looking back, I knew I wasn’t ready for university, but as so many people do, I decided to go based on what other people said. The prospect of having to meet new people wasn’t exciting it was terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing, I had no money (which was a worry in itself). This lead me to spend every night dragging my uncontrollable body to the bathroom in an attempt to vomit all of my anxiety up. 

It got to the point for me where I wasn’t just having severe panic attacks on my own, but even at university. There were a lot of contributing factors as to why I was in such a dark place and I won’t bore you with them. In the end I wasn’t able to control my thoughts or body anymore and I ended up seeing the university counsellor which really helped put things into perspective for me. The reality was I didn’t feel safe or happy at that point in my life so I made the decision to drop out. A decision I still stand by. Yet here I am three years later and going into my second year of university and experiencing the type of university experience people constantly rave on about. 

I know it can be a traumatic experience for so many but I want to stress that you are not alone. There are so many people who are going through the same emotions. Try to involve yourself with societies at university and get social during Freshers week. I wrote on a Facebook page after drinking a bottle of wine to ask if anyone wanted to hang out, no shame. Guess what happened? Somebody came up to my flat and hung out with me, and this is because everybody is in the same boat at university. There are so many people who come from all over the world and country to study in London and I can guarantee that the majority of people know nobody here either. Try to keep that in mind when you’re feeling out of your depth.

If you’re an international student, starting a new phase in life far from home it can be just as daunting. Don’t be afraid to make friends, start with flatmates and then slowly start socialising during freshers week. Everybody in university, especially first years are all looking to fit in just like you. 

If you do struggle like I have and have serious issues with anxiety or paranoia, please don’t be ashamed of it. You are on your own after all and it is so important to understand when you need help. Your university will have great tutors in every course so, if you’re feeling under the weather, homesick or crazy overwhelmed, contact them. They are there to help and make university easier for you, trust me. 

If you’re feeling like you need to talk to someone with more experience, every campus has a nurse and a student advice team. You can talk to a counsellor if you want confidentiality.

You can call Samaritans who are available 24/7 on 116 123.

Remember that sometimes you cannot do it all on your own. There is help. In the form of your friends, your professors, your student's union, university and even your family. Put your mental health first and enjoy your time at the university without compromising on your happiness. Talk about your problems and there is a very good chance you'll sort it out a lot faster than you would by yourself. 

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