Mental illness is a silent epidemic that can affect anyone. There are many mental illnesses including depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and many more. I think it’s important for people to be educated on these illnesses and how to recognise them – especially students who are under a lot of stress, emotional pressure and are away from home.
As someone who is recovering from anorexia nervosa and is still struggling with anxiety, I know it can be incredibly difficult to even recognise you are suffering from a mental illness. I also know that there is a great deal of help out there and I wanted to share some of the many ways that you can find help whilst at university. UCA has an amazing support system that has helped me greatly, so you know you’ll never alone .
1. Tutors will understand
If you are stressed, sad or something has happened in your personal life, such as a breakup or the death of a loved one, I recommend communicating this with your tutors. Your tutors understand that you’re human and will help you if you are going through a tough time.
2. Sign up for counselling
UCA also offers free counselling sessions for students who may need it. While I was studying my Foundation Studies at the Canterbury campus I filled out a Counselling Request Form and from there I was able to see a counsellor as often as I felt I needed. This was an indispensable resource for me – it helped me so much during my time at UCA Canterbury and helped me adjust to life at university.
After starting BA (Hons) Computer Animation Arts at UCA Rochester, although I felt much more stable and independent, I still felt I needed some support. I was able to see someone a few times during the term just to talk about how things were going, which also proved very useful when a family member passed away during my first year… Having someone to talk to in a welcoming setting can make all the difference when it comes to dealing with personal issues.
Image: UCA student Megan Newell
3. Be aware of crisis services
While counselling at the university is there to offer support when you need it, remember that it isn’t a crisis service. If you need more immediate help, there are other services that you can reach out to, such as the Samaritans, Nightline, contact your GP or dial 999 for emergencies. I also recommend getting an outside therapist if needed and if you are able to. UCA has a list of organisations that can help (click here) and they make it super easy to contact charities that relate to specific mental illness such as Beat for Eating Disorders (they have helplines for anyone who is struggling).
4. Get out & about
Another way to cope with mental health issues is finding some hobbies that you love. This can be anything including arts and crafts (which for art students can be incredibly empowering and even useful), knitting, crocheting, yoga, meditation, exercise (although be wary of this with eating disorders), journaling, or any other activities you enjoy. Even planning in time to be around friends and family can help. I personally use my artwork to express my what I am going through and to help people understand what it’s like to suffer from a mental illness.
Writing in my journal helped me more than I expected
Finally, remember that you’re not alone and that you don’t need to suffer in silence – there are people who care about you and want to listen and help you.