MENTAL HEALTH & UNIVERSITY
My current to-do list includes a 2000 word essay for my MA application, a 3000 word draft for my dissertation, almost 1000 pages worth of reading for my weekly seminars, and planning for the three 4000 word essays due at the end of the semester. Maintaining a healthy diet, an exercise regime, a social life, an online presence and a clean bill of mental health alongside all of that? Not going to happen. Is it any wonder, then, that one in four students are suffering from mental health problems at any time? And how do you treat a mental health problem when you can’t escape the thing that’s causing it?
A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
I’ll be honest with you: I’m struggling. Last weekend, I took another trip to Brighton, and it filled my head and my heart with so many hopes and dreams all over again. I know what I want from life, but I feel so far from achieving it. I’ve found myself within reach of my dream MA course, centred around the cultural and creative industries that I so long to be a part of. Suddenly, the undergraduate degree that’s caused me nothing but pain and suffering for the last three years matters. I’m finding myself wondering whether I’ve done enough, and cursing that I couldn’t overcome my mental health problems to achieve what I’m capable of.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
During my time at university, I’ve had both cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling, and there’s no doubt they’ve helped. Some of my problems have been almost completely treated, and I’ve learnt to cope better with the ones that are sticking around. However, they haven’t gone away, and I doubt they will until I’ve put this course behind me. For anybody who’s stuck in a situation that’s causing mental health problems, whether it’s a degree, a job or even a relationship, treating those mental health problems is going to be extremely difficult as long as they remain within that situation. With the stigma surrounding mental health problems still going strong, it often feels like your only option in a situation like that is to stick it out and hope for the best, for fear of being misunderstood or not taken seriously if you explain your circumstances. For example, the negative connotations that the term ‘university drop out’ still carries might explain why student suicide rates are the highest they’ve been in ten years.
THE HOME STRETCH
I’m coming up to the end of my undergraduate degree, so I think it’s finally safe to say I made it out the other side. However, things could have been very different, and that’s why I wanted to write this post today. In my experience, there’s little you can actually do to alleviate your mental health problems at university without leaving or taking a break. Even then, it’s likely that returning to university will cause a relapse, even if it’s less severe than the first onset. Resources for support at university aren’t infinite, and even the kindest therapists and counsellors can only do so much to help. For me, and many other students like me, it’s a case of holding out until it’s over, and that’s no way to live.