I Needed Mental Health Knowledge at Uni


In the wake of a new survey talking about student mental health, this former student talks about her experiences and how knowledge has made all the difference in working life and beyond.

I found myself feeling very alone again. I had cried so much I felt physically ill- my stomach ached, my eyes were sore and I could feel the start of a headache. It wasn’t the first time I’d been this way. This was my third and final year of university and I’d had enough.

Seems like I wasn’t alone after all. Sadly, many students experience mental ill health, especially in their final year. A new survey just came out which put the figure at eight out of ten students. Even worse, 54% of students didn’t seek any support and a third didn’t know where to go for support.

Since leaving university I’ve gone on Mental Health First Aid training and work for a very supportive employer. I now know what mental ill health looks like- what the signs and symptoms are. I know where I can go to get support and that it’s OK to need it.

Exam stress, deadlines, thoughts of an uncertain future and even the pressure to be ‘having the best time of your life’ all play a part. Without support, these things can cause or worsen a mental health problem. At university, I saw people around me stop eating or sleeping, have panic attacks, begin to excessively use the gym or not leave the house for days. 

For me it was grieving for a lost relative that often made my university days unbearably hard. Being away from many friends and family, for the first time in my life, didn't help. 

Once I got to third year, I had been suffering for many months but put on a brave face. I should have asked for support sooner, I know this now.

But at the same time nobody at my university made it clear to me that there was support, where I could find it or even that I might need it.

I was encouraged by friends to get some sort of help but once I did was advised to keep quiet about it to avoid being judged. Mental health stigma is very real.

In the end I got the help I needed through university counselling but it wasn’t easy.

If I’d known about mental health when I was at uni, I would have had fewer dark days. Despite this, I got a degree, made life-long friends and have some wonderful memories too. I hope all those students who need support, get it and ultimately feel the same way.

*Image by Nayu Kim, copyright protected.

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