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Friday, 7 April 2017

How University harms Mental Health

So after the term I've had and things I've experienced, as well as yet another piece of devastating news, I realised some of the serious dangers to mental health the university can cause and so I wanted to do a post to try and voice the issue.

When a lot of people experience mental health problems, a common feeling is loneliness and shame; feeling as though you're not allowed to feel weak and sad because everyone else is coping just fine.

However, I've noticed this year, that there have been a lot of issues with mental health, not just at my university but among family and friends too, and this has devastatingly resulted in suicides. It's extremely hard to attempt to help someone when they're in that place, however we can do our very best to try to prevent it getting to that stage.



University is hard, and it's different levels of hard for each individual depending on the subject, their work ethic, the way they deal with things and of course external and social influences. But it is hard. And yes it's meant to be hard so that it's worth more when you come out and yes I've definitely grown as a person and will be better equipped in the real world knowing I got through it. And don't get me wrong, I don't regret it - I've met some incredible people and am a stronger person because of it.

 But I came pretty low this last term - I mean very low, too low in fact for it to be worth a 'degree' (oh and life long debt), and I'm evidently not the only one. Just looking around at my friends - not to mention hearing about other students from mine as well as other universities in England - I can feel the stress, despair and worry (and not going to lie we're all pretty smart and hard working) and through meeting with a university counselor, they've been chocka-block all year with concerned students.

In my opinion, it's a little bit too far. In some ways I think it's good that young people can experience and learn to handle stress and a busy workload while they have the support easily accessible and 'free' (cough cough £9000 a year) so that they're more prepared for the future. However, there's a line. There's a line where a degree, £27,000, relationships, bullying, body confidence etc etc IS NOT WORTH IT!  And it seems that a lot of students either don't want to or don't know how to find the help they need and it all gets a bit much. And unfortunately crossing this line cannot be undone.


Universities have an obligation to their students to support them and unfortunately some of these support services are not well promoted or potentially not equipped enough to deal with the demand. Now I'm writing this post thinking, well there are plenty of support services at my uni, we've each got a subject supervisor who's with us all throughout university and a project supervisor who's meant to guide us through our dissertation project. But the thing is, being at a Russel Group University, everyone has their own research, i.e. they have their own work to do on top of, marking endless essays/exams, planning lectures, they're own life. Everyone is stretched so thin that I have felt that I can't go to these people when I need to, leaving me to deal with it on my own.

Mental Health and Mindfulness is becoming a new hot topic so I'm hoping that things will start to change and ideally become more relaxed and focused. Not only in universities but school as well, young people are so vulnerable and are learning new things everyday - we need the support of family and friends, who not everyone has support from making the support from the community/institution so much more important.

At the end of the day, a degree/exam is a piece of paper, it doesn't not signify your worth. Nowadays there are plenty of opportunities for everyone. Nothing is worth ending your life for. Nothing. 

If you're feeling down or stressed and feeling like you're not coping here's what to do. First, don't feel ashamed, we all (really, all of us!) go through it - I always thought university memes were a bit drastic, but nope we genuinely feel like that. Second, talk, it really does help, seek out what support your university/school provides (you should have a subject supervisor, of if you want more anonymity there may be counselors on site) and if they don't - make it happen! Third, if there's really no support, there's services like The Samaritans that provide free counselling. 



*Little disclaimer to point out that I didn't personally know the people who have recently passed very well, and therefore don't know the reasons for their actions. But simply based on their occurrence, mine and others experiences, I strongly feel that this is an issue that needs addressing urgently.
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12 comments

  1. So proud of you for posting this and speaking out love; I truly hope that it helps anyone in need reach out! So sorry to hear that you've been felling low lovely; make sure that the stress of uni life doesn't take over and you have time to enjoy life and take care of yourself! Your blogging fam have your back, always!

    Hayley xo
    www.frockmeimfamous.com

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    1. Thank You ever so much for saying that Hayley, that really means a lot to me! I'm feeling much much better now that period is over and I really hope speaking out helps other people going through the same thing!

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  2. I agree that absolutely nothing is worth taking your life for, especially because no bad or stressful or overwhelming situations can last so to do something when you're in one is just like missing out on all the good stuff that follows. I personally was really stressed in uni and high school toward the end as well because there's a crazy amount of pressure during those years. The funny thing is that when you're over the hump and out of the academic schooling system, it seems insane that you ever spend so much time worrying! I got really good grades in high school but was a mess, and in uni I also was a stress bucket but got good grades. Currently? it's been 3 years since I finished uni and I've gone a different way from my degree so....why the hell did I stress so much?! Wish I could go back honestly and just tell myself to chill out and that it is literally a number or grade on a piece of paper but that's it.

    Julia // The Sunday Mode

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    1. You're so right with this Julia! I can even see it while it's happening to me - I was exactly the same at school, did really well but the stress and panic I experienced made it so not worth it! - and it's the same with my degree - I even know I don't want to pursue it in the future, and yet I still let it consume me, because of the pressure both from society and what I put on myself. And I know in a couple of months (as long as I do actually get that 2:1) I'll think back and wonder why I wasted so much time and health over it!

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  3. A big clap for you, Josie, for posting this. We certainly need to talk more about these issues and their importance. University can break a person. Just like you, before entering university, I thought that those memes were way too over board and a bit too extreme but now I know better. The workload, the stress and some of the lecturers can actually make you feel so worthless and so useless. That's a real problem right there and I hope that now more and more people will start talking about it and will start taking actions because it's not okay in so many ways.

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

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    1. Thanks for your support Leta, I'm so glad someone else agrees! I'm hoping that the rising acceptance and acknowledgement of mental health will break down the stigma and actually encourage people and establishments to start addressing it seriously - it's just devastating that it's taken a few lives to finally get to this point!

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  4. This is such an important post, at school we have Uni shoved down our throats as the only option to get a fulfilling, high paying job so when we get there, we are so concerned over our future, our work is impeded and so is our health. Such a good read!

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    1. Thanks Amy, I'm glad you agree! I definitely think there's a way to go about promoting further education, a lot of students I know feel a great pressure from their school and their family and it's really sad to see!

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  5. I graduated from university last year and my goodness it was an experience and a half! I knew university was going to be hard and had to put up with people saying that my degree was a walk in the park :/ I studied Environmental Design and yes designing interiors and the like sounds "easy" but there is way more to it than what people think!

    My biggest pet peeves with university was that you wouldn't really get help unless you were at breaking point and also the stupid amount of pressure they place on you. Tutors would turn a blind eye to the "I'm struggling" moments but the minute you burst into tears in front of them, they'd spring into action. And the pressure you were put under. My final year was horrible. Had it's great moments but towards the end of each semester , I wasn't in a good state both mentally and physically. It was hard and if it wasn't for certain people I don't think I would have graduated. I felt like an utter failure when my design would be knocked back week after week and then when you see how much work you need to do and it all gets too much!

    I will say that I have grown a lot from being at university but far out, it was a struggle at times. You've got a beautifully written and really important post here and I hope many more people are going to read this :) Em xx

    http://edoublemamurray.blogspot.com.au/

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    1. Gosh that sounds terrible Emma! It's really not good that people are driven to breaking point before they get offered any help or support! People don't realise how much pressure it can put on us and how vulnerable we are at this point in our lives!

      Huge Congratulations on graduating and I'm so happy you managed to get through it - despite the heartache - at least that chapter is now over for you and you've come out a stronger person because of it! I just hope things start to change now so that more students/ young people can be saved from these feelings!

      Thank You Emma, I really appreciate the support!

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  6. There’s such a stigma about mental health because people can’t
    identify with it. It’s not tangible. You break a wrist and everyone rushes over
    to sign your cast but you suffer from something in the mind and people rush
    away from you. We accept emotions like grief because we can identify with them
    but those emotions that we cannot identify with we turn away from and scowl
    upon because of pure ignorance.

    This is why I have decided I want to write a book about my
    anxiety journey and the stigma of mental health in general. If anyone has any
    opinions or thoughts that they would like to share with me or ideas of things
    they think need to be included in the book please do not hesitate to email me
    at rosie.olivia28@gmail.com :) x

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    1. You're so right Rosie, this book sounds brilliant good for you, I'll be sure to send any thoughts your way!

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