Monday 8 October 2018

World Mental Health Day 2018 – Student and Graduate Mental Health

In this blog Emily raises awareness about the importance of discussing student and graduate mental health this World Mental Health Day.


Each year, World Mental Health Day is marked on the 10th October. World Mental Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 and is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Last year, the theme of 2017’s World Mental Health Day was mental health in the workplace. This year, the theme for 2018’s World Mental Health Day is young people and mental health in a changing world. According to the World Health Organisation’s website, “adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of life when many changes occur, for example changing schools, leaving home, and starting university or a new job. For many, these are exciting times. They can also be times of stress and apprehension however. In some cases, if not recognised and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness. The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows.” In this blog post, I am going to explore the challenges that not only university students may face with regards to mental health, but also the challenges that new university graduates can face. 

The recent Student Minds campaign #DearFresherMe saw many students (past and present) share their experiences and advice about mental health and starting university in order to advise and reassure new Freshers about to embark on their university journeys. Starting university in itself as a new first year can be daunting and challenging – moving away from home, living with new people and making new friends as well as starting a university course can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for some students. However, mental health problems for students don’t necessarily always begin during the first year of study – they can happen at any stage during university. In fact, each new academic year brings with it a fresh wave of challenges, including increased workload, living in student housing, perhaps studying abroad for a semester or a year, and the worry about what to do after university finishes. 

What can students do to help their mental health? Firstly, it is important to highlight that asking for help and indeed finding help and support for mental health is difficult. It can be embarrassing and worrying to find the confidence to admit that you’re struggling. Usually, however, there are lots of people who can support you. For example, I struggled a lot with mental health problems during my time at Swansea University, and I found it especially helpful to speak to the wonderful staff in the Swansea University Students’ Union’s Advice and Support Centre. They were always non-judgemental and usually just always available if I needed a chat. But, it can also be helpful to speak to other people, like a tutor, additional support services or a GP, as well as friends and family. Keeping busy and finding something you thoroughly enjoy doing and taking part in can also significantly help with mental health. 

Moving on, graduate mental health is something that is not heard of, not well known, and definitely not talked about enough. I think it is misunderstood just how challenging it is to have gotten used to being at university which is a bit like a bubble, to suddenly being out in the big wide world! Little has been said about the post-graduation feeling of anxiety and confusion, and “this silent problem is taking over the lives of recent graduates, and while conversations around mental health in general have been getting louder, this is an area that is still relatively quiet” (Source). Leaving university is a shock to the system and it can be extremely tough to adjust to post-graduate life. However, it’s important to remember that your degree certificate signifies years of hard work, dedication and passion to your course, and that it is perfectly okay to not be in a perfect job right way or even to have a clue what you want to do. 

With this year’s World Mental Health Day focusing on young people, it is a good idea to challenge people’s perceptions of student and graduate mental health, as well as to educate about these important matters. This can help to further reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health at university and post-university and hopefully give more students and graduates the confidence and the reassurance to ask for support when required. 

“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.” 
- Steven Aitchison

My name is Emily (Em). I have recently graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting; I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now as a graduate, as well as other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

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