How to Get Help if You're Struggling at University

Kirsty Mason on 1 March 2018
How to Get Help if You're Struggling at University

It's University Mental Health Day today so we wanted to give you a little reminder that there is help available and you are not alone.

After being told that university will be the best days of your life, it’s particularly challenging when we find that university is not all plain sailing and we’re struggling to cope. Note the use of the word “we” - yes, you are not alone in feeling this way. In fact, a survey by Samaritans Charity found that a staggering 41% of 16-24-year-olds admitted they felt “overwhelmed”. This issue is particularly a problem with young males, with an astonishing one in seven 16-24-year-old males experiencing anxiety or depression each year.

For many people, coming to university is the first time they’re living away from home and the transition from living in the comfort of your own home to having to look after yourself and be an independent adult is undeniably a challenge. Even though you’re surrounded by people, life at university can feel incredibly lonely. On top of all that, it’s difficult to think logically when you’re plagued by negative emotional thoughts, making getting through assignments and the pressure of deadlines even more of a challenge.

You may find yourself faced with multiple stressful scenarios that are wearing you down, such as upcoming deadlines, house-hunting, paying bills, financial issues and general “adulting”. Unfortunately, these are the things that school doesn’t seem to prepare you for so being suddenly faced with it all is very daunting. At university, people often find it difficult to juggle getting good grades, maintaining a good social life and getting enough sleep (we’ve all seen that meme which demands you give up at least one). Although we joke about it, in reality, dealing with these pressures and trying to stay on top of it all is understandably difficult.

If you're struggling at university, the best first step you can take is to talk to someone about it. It's perfectly normal to experience difficulties when it comes to dealing with your mental health and you shouldn't feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. A spokesperson for Mind Charity says that early intervention is vital and you should seek help sooner rather than later. Here’s who you can go to if you’re struggling at university:

  • Friends/ family - some people find it easier to go to someone they don’t have a personal relationship with so this might not apply to you but if there’s someone close to you who you want to talk to, then talk to them. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed or afraid and you’ll be surprised how many people can understand and relate to the very same issues you’re currently facing. Even if it makes you nervous, it will help.

  • Go to the student council service - if you’d rather speak to someone you don’t know personally who has professional training, the student council service is a good option. Everything you share with them will be strictly confidential unless you say otherwise.

  • Go to a charity - there are loads of charities that help students just like you. Some of the most useful charities are Mind, Samaritans, Nightline, Student Minds and The National Union of Students - these charities offer non-judgemental, round the clock support and however minor you might convince yourself the problem is, if you’re struggling, they’re there for you.

As well as university challenges, we are faced with the societal pressures of how we cope with these issues and the stigma that’s associated with mental health. Remember, whatever society says, you’re doing your best and that’s all you can do. More and more people are recognising that it’s time for a change in the stigma that surrounds mental health. A growing number of celebrities are coming forward to talk about the mental health challenges that they have been faced with, including Ryan Reynolds, Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt and Ke$ha to name but a few.

Encouragingly, in a society which tells us not to talk about mental health, statistics suggest that young people are also increasingly becoming a drive for this social change, transcending the boundaries of mental health and defying the stigma. Finally, we are beginning to see a world which allows us to have a voice and talk about the challenges that we’re facing. However you feel, however bad it gets, you are not alone. Trust me, you’re doing good. You’ve got this.

Heart carved out of green wall

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Kirsty Mason
Kirsty Mason on 1 March 2018