Talking about mental health at university.


"Where there is cake, there is hope...and there is always cake."

The other day I helped some members of the FXU Raise and Donate Team by taking photographs of their Depressed Cake Shop bake sale. The Depressed Cake shop it is an organisation aiming to end the stigmatisation of mental illnesses through engaging people in discussions about the topic through bake sales including recognisable grey cakes. It was really lovely talking to and photographing the events management students running the store based at AMATA on our Penryn campus, and also the people buying the cakes. 

There was also someone from Mind who had come along to hand out leaflets and give any advice to students who needed any, and there were people from student support there to let students know what kind of support is on offer for those with mental health issues. 

Being there and hearing conversations from people who were receiving things like counselling and doing what they can to help their mental health, really made me step back and think about my own struggles with mental health. 

I have talked previously about my anxiety and depression and moving 7 hours away from home to university was really going to be sink or swim for me. I think it surprised a lot of people that I was so committed to doing this particular course here at Falmouth, especially those who are closest to me, as I am very reserved and have a small group of friends, so just suddenly moving away from all that clearly wasn't going to be easy.

Fresher's week was hard for me but I pushed myself to go out on lots of society tasters, and even though I didn't make any close friends that week I was making sure not to spend all of my time in my bedroom, where I would inevitably sit and miss my family. I remember looking on social media sites like Yik Yak and our freshers page on Facebook, and lots of people were writing about how much they hated university already and that they didn't like their flatmates and they wanted to go home, and it made me really sympathise and question whether I really want to be here or not. 

The problem with getting mental health support at University is that even if you state that you have a mental illness and apply for extra funding etc before you get there, you still have to seek help yourself if you need it, whether that be in person or over email. Which takes a lot for some people and is something I still haven't done yet. Mental health is incredibly stigmatised and even if there is counselling available and other help, it can still be very daunting to make use of that, especially if you are feeling isolated already at university being away from your family and friends. 

So what can you do? Well you can go on external forums or call up a helpline so you can discuss what's on your mind with someone anonymously. You could try talking to your flatmates/uni friends or contact friends and family from back home. You could also book an appointment with your GP to see what kind of therapies and treatments are available to you outside of your university.

Personally my biggest issues are dealing with stress and social anxiety. I often let things bottle up and then I need to take time out for self care, which is time I don't really have during my studies. I have been talking to my friends back home about it which has been really helpful and I do plan on mentioning my lack of confidence in my studies to my personal tutor. In terms of getting support from the University I am looking into some 'stress less' sessions that they offer. 

What you can often forget when dealing with mental health difficulties is that people are more understanding than you think. Mental Health disorders are incredibly stigmatised in our society and it makes it very off putting to label yourself as having any kind of mental health disorder, but if you need help don't ever feel like you are not allowed to seek it. In terms of being at University plenty of people suffer from mental health problems here whether they seem like they are fine or not. 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health disorder so you are not alone. I was shocked at the number of people at the bake sale who opened up and said they were receiving counselling for something, as they are people I never would have suspected as suffering with a mental health problem. 

If you are at University and feel as though you have no one to talk to about any of this know that there are support systems in place that you can reach out to if you need it. There is also external help like I mentioned and feel free to contact me personally if you want to talk to anyone who is in a similar setting to you who doesn't know you personally.